The festivals in Goa are celebrated through out the year. Most of the Goan festivals are Jatras (feasts) of the local or family deity celebrated at the temple, called Devasthan. There is gala affair in the temple complex with thousands of devotees taking part in the colorful celebrations and the palakhi or palanquin procession.
The long period of Portuguese colonisation, has given unique Goan character to the Hindu festivals and are celebrated in distinctive and stylish elegance. Most of the Hindu, Christian and other religious festivals are celebrated in the same manner as around India, but with a Goan flavour. Mainly celebrated Hindu festivals, by the Goans are Ganesh Chathurti, Gudi Padwa, Diwali, Dassra (Dussehra), Holi, Rakshabandhan, Ramnavmi and Krishnajanmashtami.
Carnival in Goa is a non-stop 3-day festival of color, song and music, creating a healthy entertainment for all, young and old. The soothing climate, full of fun- 'n' -frolic, which the Carnival generates, is much longed for. It does not matter whether one enjoys or see others enjoying. There is enthusiasm and happiness all around.
Street Plays, songs, dances, and unrehearsed farces mocking the establishment are performed before an enthusiastic, responsive audience. Floats depicting popular lullabies and nursery rhymes make a whimsical and colorful sight on the streets. In the three days of celebrations, cultural functions and competitions abound, and are judged by specially selected people. King Momo distributes the prizes to the winners.
The contestants wear colorful costumes and elaborate masks. Amidst the outrageous dresses seen on the street are some made of sheer, transparent polythene. In the fun-filled ambience, people smear color on each other, instead of the flour, eggs, fruit and water that used to be used in earlier times.
This is a grand five-day festival of colours, celebrated distinctively in the villages, corresponding with Holi or Spring Festival. Held for one-week up to the full-moon day in March, Shigmo is universally celebrated in Goa, but especially at Panaji, Mapusa, Vasco-da-Gama and Margao.
Kalas Utsav is celebrated on a major scale every alternate year at Sri Morjaee Temple in Pernem. People from Maharashtra and Karnataka also attend the seven-day socio-religious event held here.
The farmers, Hindu or Christian give their first offering to the church before harvesting their rice crop. The offering takes place at the time of Novidade, in which the parish priest himself harvests a sheaf of rice and returns with it to the Church. Local people accompany him with music, fire-works and jubilation. Women folk of Goa's earliest tribal settlers perform a dance called Bhandup in the second half of the month.
The Zatra of Shri Shantadurga is held at Dhargali in Pernem. The deity is taken out of the temple in a colorful procession for the day. The annual zatra of Shri Shantadurga at Kunkoliemkarin at Fatorpa in Quepem also falls in this month. Thousands flock to attend the festival from distant lands.
The feast of Bonderam is celebrated on the fourth Saturday of August every year at Divar Island, 12-km from Panjim. On this day, the quaint land of Divar, away from the hustle and bustle of Panjim, is agog with excitement. Melodious music drifts from the village to mainland Old Goa - once the hub of Portuguese Goa - even before the crack of dawn on the Saturday. At noon people begin trickling into the village. By the evening the trickle is a deluge. An expectant crowd assembles along either side of the main through fare of the village. The tempo is set by lands and lasses wielding "fotashes" engaging themselves in mock battles. The gaily colored floats accompanied by colorfully dressed youngsters make a pretty picture.
This music festival, started just few years back, celebrates the coming together of western classical along with Indian classical form of music. The venue for the festival is the centuries old newly renovated chapel on the hill at Old Goa. It is organised by the combined efforts of Fundacao Oriente, Cidade de Goa and the Kala Academy at the Capela da Nossa Senhora do Monte (Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount). This chapel perched at the very top of a hill in Old Goa is a must-see place during the festival, where one can enjoy a truly spectacular panoramic view of large areas of North Goa. Performances are usually held for four days and this festival provides a platform to a number of artists local, national and international to display their talents in front of an appreciative audience. There are buses that take you up the steep slope to the venue from the Mahatma Gandhi circle at Old Goa.
This festival is a combined effort of the Goa Heritage Action Group, the Corporation of the City of Panaji and the Department of Tourism, Government of Goa. The festival, now in its third year, aims to preserve and promote the Fontainhas area of Goa. Fontainhas is the Latin quarter of Panjim city with pretty Indo-Portuguese homes lovingly cared for the last hundred years or more. The roads are neatly laid out and the area is dominated by the St Sebastian Chapel. The festival is marked by performances by various artists on stages set up in open areas, as well as display of work of art by local artisans who use the pavements and heritage homes as their galleries. The festival in short is not only meant to celebrate the cultural heritage of the state, it inculcates awareness and appreciation of their unique culture in the hearts of Goans and impresses the need to conserve it for the benefit of future generations.
The market places are all embellished with tinsel and buntings and Santas distributing sweets to children. Decorated and glittering Christmas trees are all over the place.
For the devout, the celebrations begin on Christmas Eve. Carols are sung and various churches organize the midnight Mass. The service on Christmas Day is attended by Christians dressed in new clothes. After the morning service is over, people assemble in their homes for family get-togethers.
In Goa, Christmas is celebrated in the European way with the celebrations revolving around the family. But it has strands woven in that go to make it a Goan one. A week or 10 days before Christmas, a family group or a village group with one among them dressed as Santa go carol singing with a box to raise funds. These funds are normally contributed towards a meal for the poor.
This is the big feast of Goa. The Feast of St Francis Xavier is held on the 3 rd of December. The venue for the feast is the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa. St Francis Xavier is the patron saint of Goa and attracts devotees from all over the world. His body has been preserved for centuries and lies in an exquisite silver casket at the Basilica and is displayed every ten years. However, the feast is celebrated every year and if you wish to pay your respects to the saint, you can be a part of this feast. St Xavier was a great Jesuit missionary, who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Asia.