Solemnising the dogma of the Immaculate Conception at the city church (8 December) was a good spiritual preparation for Christmas just round the corner. The angelic music of the Salves at twilight prefigured the celestial choirs intoning “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” a fortnight later. Caroling house to house, late in the evening, was the order the season (the proceeds went to Mother Teresa’s Asilo). City clubs like Nacional and Vasco da Gama organised carol singing competitions, balls and street dances. The household would be agog with the Crib, the Star and the Christmas Tree.

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Panjim

24th December: after the Midnight Mass, we used to head straight for the pillow to herald Pai-Natal (Christmas Father) in our sleep. We woke up the next morning, excited about the festa da família (family celebration) – more recently, a veritable family reunion at lunch or supper! We particularly relished the consoada (meaning, the season’s sweets, in Goa) comprising traditional homemade delicacies that Avó (Grandmother) Leonor insisted on having for Christmas.

The days that followed, up to 6th January, feast day of the Reis Magos (the Magi, or Three Wise Kings) at Verem, saw Panjimites on their evening beat around the city. They invariably walked up to Timoteo’s mechanised crib, or drove to Francisco Martins’ at Ribandar. Other private houses and public squares used colourful lighting.

Once upon a time, that was my Christmas agenda. Much of it has gone but some of it has remained in the form of a musical reverie, thanks to Jim Reeves, my childhood star who still sings “Jingle Bells”, “Silent Night”, “Mary’s Boy Child” and “White Christmas”.

(First published in Panjim Plus, 16-31 December 2001)