Festivals are a regular and prominent feature of Goan life. Goa is home to a mix of Christians and Hindus, and once under both Portugal and Mughal rule, majority of the festivals are reflective of the two religions and the lifestyle of the rulers while the others exhibit the fun-loving nature of the people. Whatever the reason, Goans believe in celebrating these festivals with pomp and show.
The Feast of St Francis Xavier is an important Christian festival held annually at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa in the first week of December. The festival is marked by processions and services followed by a huge feast at the church. The feast commemorates the death of the Saint, a patron saint of Goa, who preached Christianity in many parts of Asia. Till 1994, the mortal remains of the saint was displayed every 10 years at the church.
Surprisingly, the Feast of Three Kings, despite being a Christian festival is celebrated with equal fervor by the Hindus. The feast is held at The Church Of Our Lady Of The Mount in Old Goa for nine days ending on 6th January. The festival is held as a mark of respect to The Lady of Mount who is said to grant wishes for children and offer protection to the people. A ritualistic ceremony is held where three young boys dressed as kings offer all their possessions to the Lady of the Mount. After this, fairs where a range of items from meal to copper and brassware, furniture, clothes, toys and trinkets are held.
Having a sizeable Christian population, Christmas is celebrated in full spirit at Goa. Christians celebrate the event at the churches and the tiny state is alive with parties and cultural shows. The celebrations continue till New Year during which the beaches are filed with people partying bidding adieu to the passing year and welcoming the new.
Ganesh Chaturthi is the most important festival of the Hindus. The festival is celebrated on the occasion of the birthday of the elephant-god Ganesha. The festival runs for 10 days throughout Goa marked by fun and frolic, and a time for prayer.
Shigmotsav is a Hindu festival and the most colorful festival in Goa. The festival is held in the month of March with elaborate parades by colorfully dressed villagers on their march to a temple. The festival is particularly noted for the Rang Panchami, a significant part of the celebrations, during which people throw red color at each other.
Bonderam is a festival marked to remember the resentment against the Portuguese system of dispute settlement between two villages on the Divar Islands, Piedalda and Sao Mathias. The festival is held on the fourth Saturday of October with great fanfare.
The three-year-old Goa Heritage Festival has been created through the combined effort of the government of Goa and a local NGO to preserve and promote the heritage of Goa and to renew respect for Goan culture among the people. Works of local artists are displayed and local musicians perform during this festival.