May - month of feasts & salt-water bathing

Dr ALVARINHO J LUIS | MAY 19, 2024, 12:15 AM IST

Goa is a vibrant mix of unique Portuguese and Indian traditions, magnificent mansions and churches, delectable food, beautiful beaches, football, feni, and other activities. It is a favourite destination for holidays, weddings, and feasts.

The Feasts

In most villages, the feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated with Ladainhas. On the first Sunday of May, the Saligao parishioners commemorate the feast of Mae de Deus, their patroness. The celebration begins with the fama, followed by a novena. Little children dress up as angels and offer Our Lady flowers daily during the novenas. A Eucharistic celebration is held on the feast day, drawing a large number of devotees in the intercession of Our Lady. The day culminates with a tiatr.

In Calapur, the feast of Santa Cruz is celebrated on Sundays between the 2nd and 8th of May every year at the Dominicans sculptured Santa Cruz Church, whose facade is a replica of the Se Cathedral. The celebration honors the Día de la Cruz, or Day of the Cross, observed on May 3 worldwide. A fair is the attraction of the feast.

On May 12, the village of São Matias, Divar, commemorates the feast of Saint Mathias, their patron saint. Following Jesus’ resurrection, St. Matthew was selected to succeed Judas as the twelfth apostle. People make their requests and intentions known during the novena. On the feast day, a procession carries the saint’s relics before the Eucharistic rite. Later in the evening, Kantarachi Sanz hosts a social gathering when the villagers dance to traditional Konkani music and mandos. 

The Holy Spirit Church in Margao celebrates the feast of Pentecost on the seventh Sunday following Easter. This holiday honors the moment the apostles received the Holy Spirit after Jesus died, rose, and ascended. Jesuit missionaries originally constructed the church in the sixteenth century, and in 1675, it underwent a reconstruction in the current Indian Baroque style. The feast is also known as purumentachem fest, an event where locals shop for dry fish, spices, furniture, utensils, spices, chillies, and other items for use in the rainy season. The fair also features traditional sweets, including grams, kadio bodio, and laddoos.

Seawater-bathing ritual

Referred to as “mudança” in Portuguese, which means “change,” this custom dates back to centuries when hundreds of Goans from outside Goa visited the local beach each year to take their customary salt-water baths. The beginning of the seawater bath ritual, which is thought to be a two- or three-day event, is mid-April. This is a distinctly Goan custom known scientifically as “thalassotherapy.” An almost complete influx of older men and women from around the state would arrive at the seaside in May. 

High evaporation increases the salt content of the seawater in summer, which multiplies the health benefits of a seawater bath, especially if one takes regular dips for several hours at a stretch. According to elderly people, seawater bath helps improve blood circulation, help them rejuvenate, aid in faster healing of cuts, and mitigate aches, joint pains, and arthritis. While the scientific evidence may not be conclusive, anecdotal experiences suggest the tradition is true. In Goa, the locals call it the ‘Paim Buddounk’ tradition.

According to a 2019 study from the University of Exeter published in Health and Place, living near the coast/beach may promote improved mental health. According to a Japanese study, seawater can effectively heal dermatitis, a common skin ailment. This result is consistent with thalassotherapy, which considers taking a daily bath in seawater for three days helpful. Typically, beachgoers bring tiffin with dry food that won’t spoil. Some prefer boiled rice with chutney, salted mango, kokum syrup drink, black tea, and boll (sweetened bread). People slumber in the huts fishermen built to shade their boats during the sweltering afternoons.

Mangoes, jackfruit, cashews, and the wild berries of the hillsides known as kanddam and churnas are also abundant in May. In my childhood, roaming on hills to collect these berries and getting scratched with their thorns was fun! It is the season of cashew niro, urrack and feni in the villages. Cashew and coconut fenis have their medicinal use. It’s a popular belief that drinking urrack in April-May develops immunity against the common cold. Let’s enjoy the rest of May swimming and feasting!

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