The feast of St. Francis Xavier

The feast of St. Francis Xavier is a big deal in Goa. Celebrated on December 3 each year, the feast is a state holiday and preceded with a novena at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, where the relics of the Saint are kept.

For those of us who grew up elsewhere, this celebration is not a big deal. For those of us who went to a Jesuit institution, particularly Xaviers, we were treated to a day off from college or a celebration of ‘college day’. That’s what I remember of it, really.

In Goa, the devout line up for the novenas. It is a highlight of the year for them. The young man who works for us as a part-time driver wakes up at 4 am to be in time for the 6 am service. He goes to Old Goa with a bunch of other young men – ‘triple seat’ on a scooter. He looks disbelieving that we have not made the trip even once.

Today, the morning of the feast dawned quiet and cool. The public buses took the day off and we were treated to a rare kind of no-honking breakfast. By 9 am, the crowds from the early masses started trickling back into town. Families stacked onto motorcycles or huddled onto laps in small cars made their way back home or to a post-mass hotel-breakfast-treat. The men were all in suits – mostly black with shiny chinese-collared black shirts, brown safari-suit look alikes and white socks paired with dusty black shoes. The women dug out their finery as well. Chiffon floor length gowns with tulle hems draped over scooter seats, sequins glinting in the morning haze, pre-teens in noodle straps.

Old Goa, at this time of year, is buzzing with people and activity. The fair is on, a cacophony of sweets, toys, cheap clothes and vendors hawking every possible contraption to devotees returning from novenas. From tomorrow, that fair will move to the Panjim church area, where the novenas are in progress, in preparation for the feast on December 8.

One of these evenings, we’ll take M to see the post-novena fireworks. Hope to get you some photos from there. Happy feast, everybody!

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Sounds like a fun time! Happy feast!:)

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