I wonder how many youngsters in Goa know the meaning of the word ‘ Alvorada’ (The dawn)or ‘Foznem'(The feast ‘bombs’). Back in those days, every child awakened to the sound of the ‘Foznem’, looking forward to the ‘Feira’ (fair) and the money that grandparents, parents, and relatives would hand out (usually 10 rupees were the top limit, however, from the returning ‘Tarvotti’ (Sailor) uncle, we would get even a 100!)
The village feast in Utorda (Our Lady of Lourdes) was a once a year event that my brothers, cousins and I looked forward to. The house would be packed to capacity a day before the feast. Sorpotel would be made almost a week before but the ‘Add-Mas/Sukhem’, ‘Oshe-Pulao’, ‘san’nas’ and ‘Xacuti’ would be made on the day. The mothers would be busy ironing all the clothes for the ‘Festachem Mis’ (Feast mass) which would be the longest but grandest mass of the day. Even before entering the church, I would glance at the ‘Feira’ and think of what to buy – The ‘Heat-driven’ boat always being the first on my list. This little boat operated on the heat produced by a candle flame. The other item on my list was to buy the ‘kaddeo-Boddeo’ (I loved the jaggery and ginger coated ones but despised the white sugar ones!).
It was usual for churches to invite well-known ‘pregadors’ (preachers) for the 9-day ‘Salves’ (Novenas) and the ‘Festachem Mis’ (Feast mass). The 9th day was called the ‘vesperas’ (Eve) and the mass was followed by fire-crackers and ‘foznem’. The whole village would wake up to the sound of the ‘foznem’ whose loud blast could be heard reverberating miles around. Those who lived close to the church would also wake up to peeling of church bells and beautiful music (Alvorada) played by a brass band under the pergola/gazebo located in the church compound. The church and its surrounds would soon be teeming with a riot of colour painted by bright and new garments worn by the Children and adults for the grand ‘Festa’ (Feast). The Church grounds would be festooned with decorative stringers and balloons and the ‘kermes’ (stalls) doing thumping business selling ‘khajem'(Sweets),’bhoje'(fritters), ‘solie'(Dry fish),’mobil’ (furniture), ‘fell’ (toys) and even ‘cerveja’ (beer) and snacks!
Cute little girls would pin artificial but handmade flowers on the lapels in exchange for a small donation. The elders would usually buy candles to burn at the statue of our Lady inside the church. After mass, shouts of ‘boas festas’ (Happy feast)were heard all around. People would be seen greeting each other with hugs and kisses (Hmmm..Cheek to Cheek only!). My father and i would attend the ‘dhireo’ which would take place in the afternoon of the same day, in some nearby field ( Once, a bull came charging after me! But that’s a story for another post!). It was usual for most of the village to show up at the ‘teatro’ (play) that same night. The ‘pandal’ that was erected close to the church, usually had many issues with the curtains getting snagged, sound system giving loud feedback and the generator noise causing a darned racket! But then it was all part of the fun!
All in all, it used to be a day full of fun and frolic. Returning back to our city dwellings after tearful farewells to our cousins the next day was always heart-breaking. I hope these lovely Goan traditions never die. May the ‘dhar’ (gunpowder) of the ‘foznekar’ never dampen!