What is the Christmas spirit? When we were in Thailand we thought we missed it because there wasn’t snow, carols or Christmas trees. In Malaysia, the consumerism over Christmas was almost off-putting.
Landing in tropical Goa hardly screamed Christmas.
But we are in the heart of Catholic India. Goa was a Portuguese colony for about 450 years until 1961, and it has a very strong Catholic influence.
For those that observe, each of us honors Christmas in our own ways. For some it’s observing traditions, for others it’s decorations, food, families and gifts. Christmas includes all of this for our family, but this year provided us with a ways to observe the holiday.
Tropical Christmas decorations are everywhere in Goa, and make up for lack of snow and mittens. Most houses are decked in holiday attire, with traditional Goan paper lanterns and stars.
Every village in Goa has it’s own church, some of which are several hundred years old. We attended Christmas mass in Konkani, the local language, at my ancestral church, built in 1590. My grandfather had the Portuguese last name Menezes, but changed my father’s name to Malarkar, meaning from the village of Malar. Here you can see the original church plaque for our village, Malar.
My religious observance was particularly moving as I reflected on the fact that several generations of my family had been born, married and laid to rest at this church.
For some, Christmas is centered around gifts. The greatest gift we got was seeing Ava and Kayan with their great-grandmothers for the first time.
Christmas usually isn’t complete without food. For us, nothing is complete without food.
And in homage to our Portuguese heritage, Christmas this year was also about port.
Most of all, Christmas was about family – the generations that have passed and the ones that will carry on their own Christmas spirit for generations to come.
From beachy Goa, we wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you found your own special mix of Christmas spirit.