Like elsewhere in the world, December 25 is celebrated in Goa too as the nativity of Jesus Christ with traditional joy and gaiety.

In fact, it cuts across the limits of the Church to spill over into the streets for all to participate. It is a time for merry-making and exchanging gifts in Goa, for Christmas is also about cakes and puddings.alt

The market places are all embellished with tinsel and buntings and people masquerading as Santa stalk customers, particularly children with gifts in the big cities. Decorated and glittering Christmas trees are all over the place.

For the devout, the celebrations begin on Christmas Eve. Carols are sung and various churches organize the midnight Mass. The service on Christmas Day is attended by Christians dressed in new clothes. After the morning congregation is over, people assemble in their homes for the family get-togethers.

In Goa, Christmas is celebrated in the European way with the celebrations revolving around the family. But it has strands woven in that go to make it a Goan one. A week or 10 days before Christmas, a family group or a village group with one among them dressed as Santa go carol singing with a box to raise funds. These funds are normally contributed towards a meal for the poor or for the lepers.

This is in keeping with the spirit of the occasion that is to share with the less privileged. On Christmas Eve, a star made of wood and kite paper by the family members is hung outside the house.

The typical Christmas sweet in Goa is the Christmas fruit-cake made of dry fruit and wine, which is a recipe borrowed from the West.

There are a host of local sweets of which the most popular are neureos, (stuffed dry fruit and coconut rounds), dodol (coconut and cashew squares) and coconut nest which is strips of tender coconut dipped in sugar and put like a birds nest on to decorative kite paper and bebinca. These sweets are traditionally made at home and sent in little decorative baskets to relatives and friends a week in advance.

On Christmas Eve, all gather at house of the the senior-most member of the family, for a traditional dinner that offers an opportunity to strengthen family bonds. The traditional dinner consists of turkey or chicken, pork sorpotel and pulao. A pork dish is a must. Dessert consists of fruit-cake and wine. Around 11.30 p.m., the family winds its way for Midnight Mass.

The entire atmosphere is one of festivity and much like Diwali, Goa is lit up with Christmas stars and lights that come on to herald the birth of Christ and the peal of bells rent the air.alt

Christmas day is by comparison very silent. It is a day spent with family together in the comfort of ones home. There are gifts for all the member of the family and even the visiting relatives get gifts kept under the Christmas tree. It is a time to reinforce bonds that may have gone astray or been neglected during the course of the year.

Festivities and visiting people go on even after Christmas, sometimes 10 days beyond Christmas. On New Years night, children sit with an effigy of an old man, much like a scarecrow on the road, and collect funds from passers-by.

They burn him at midnight, which is symbolic of putting the past behind and ushering in the new year or the future.

The Christmas season ends officially on January 6, which is the Feast of the Magi or the three kings who came to pay obeisance to the infant Jesus. There is a Church service and a symbolic procession of the three kings at three places in Goa.