Friday 01 July 2022

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Society | Heritage

Christmas & Natalam


Dancing in the streets! That’s a new name for Christmas nowadays in Goa.

Most of the tourists flock in during Christmas season, roam all around on hired mobikes, sit till late night in any beachside bar & restaurant and join the street dance, organised by a local club or hotel with the bands playing till dawn in the coastal village.

The names are many – Christmas Eve, Christmas Ball, Seasonal Nights, New Year Eve and then the most exciting New Year Night! It goes on at least for a week, or little more than that. It’s a great fun in its own way.

The normal season that started since October was quite demoralising for the tourism industry here, thanks to the world recession and the WTC tragedy. But the Christmas spirits are high, with the peak season gripping the coastal state.

The sandy beaches and coconut groves are seen excited with the usual enthusiasm to greet tourists from all over the world. Well-known for their hospitality, Goans are getting prepared to serve the tourists, as much as they can.

The mood is upbeat in the coastal villages, especially in the four talukas of the state. Bardez taluka includes beaches like Baga and Calangute, Tiswadi is known for a fabulous capital city of Panaji, Salcete locates magnificent beaches like Colva and Benaulim and Mormugao, situating a rustic port town of Vasco and an isolated beach like Bogmolo, right below the Dabolim airport.

Some of these areas are however also getting a bad name nowadays, due to open air rave parties being held on village hillocks along the coastline, amidst playing full blast Goa Trance, the loud music composed by the raves. Drugs from Hashish-Charas to Ecstasy are distributed under cover, but with the blessings of concerned authorities.

While such gatherings are organised in collusion with local politicians, criminals like paedophiles have also started looking at Goa as a safe place to carry out their unnatural activities of child abuse. Street children of non-Goan origin easily get attracted to small gifts like chocolates and even a pair of shoes and then become victims of their sadistic acts.

Obviously, after denying the facts for several years initially, the NGOs have now succeeded in convincing the authorities to put a stop to such illegal and criminal activities as decent tourists have begun shying away from Goa - once called the Paradise of Western India.

But much away from these commercialised festivities, the locals still enjoy their traditional Christmas with same old devotion and customs, though commercial flavour has pushed the originality under carpet a bit at village level.

Street dances are organised, putting a label of ‘traditional’ before that, though this traditionality is not even three decade-old. It was much different in ‘70s, even in the heart of Panaji. It was more for the locals than the tourists.

"My childhood Christmas in Panaji was like the city itself, a picture of simplicity and taste, with an accent on the spiritual – interior joy and genuine fraternity", says Prof Oscar de Noronha. His ancestral house on the banks of river Mandovi is nowadays surrounded with all kind of street dances, playing loud amplified music throughout the night.

He remembers those days, when festive feeling in the capital set in with the novena of Goencho Saib – St Francis Xavier – whose feast at Old Goa on 3rd December is still the biggest feast of the state, right from the time then Portuguese rulers started it - almost three centuries ago.

After rushing through greeting cards, spring-cleaning the house, decorating the pine tree branch as the Christmas tree and setting up the crib by sowing nachne at least a week in advance so that it grows five inches tall, Noronha remembers those peaceful evenings, carolling house-to-house jingling all the way.

Nora Secco de Souza, the famous columnist who has already crossed 80 by now, remembers even the Christmas of pre-liberation era. Making sweets itself was a big feast in the house, she recalls, remembering ‘cunsuada’ (Christmas sweets), consisting of variety of dainties like orehs, mandarehs, neuris, goss, kul-kuls etc – all made mostly of wheat and rice flour, jaggery, sugar and coconut.

It was a lengthy ritual making special delicacies like dodol – a mixture of flour, jaggery, coconut juice and cashew nuts and bebinca – consisting of egg yolks, four, sugar, ghee and coconut milk. The process of days together baking it on charcoals is part of history now, also hearing about the mouth-watering taste as a fairy tale.

"With the moon above, t he brooding beauty of the countryside and the holy silence and peace of the night, it is a musical feast to tune in at your window or balcony, to tinkling guitars, singing violins, soft mandolins playing, while haunting voice sings seducing fados (Portuguese love songs) as well as the latest popular numbers", recalls de Souza.

Going down the memory lane, she also recalls Christmas dances. "Friends, neighbours and relatives gather together for a musical session of soul-soothing mandos (folk songs). The entire company sings and claps hands by way of keeping time to the best of the batuques (drums) while violins call out the Mando tempo, and soon you will find both young and old taking to the floor".

It is a tired but happy crowd that finally decides to go home with a loud and fervent Deu bori rat dium (God give thee a good night), she picturises it, each carrying an empty coconut shell with a piece of candle fixed inside as a beacon to guide them homewards. And thus ends another natal (Christmas) with its message of peace and goodwill prevailing.

Nowadays, besides tourism industry, it’s a season also for the orthopaedics and neurosurgeons. Maximum road accidents and deaths are reported on Goan roads during this week as the concept of sipping drinks has overtaken by boozing and rash riding. Equally large number of drowning cases are also reported, mostly tourists, leaving a big black dot on every Christmas season that comes...deadly ! is now on Telegram & also Youtube. Kindly subscribe for free & remain updated.

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