Christians celebrate Mary's birthday with fervour

The day also marked by offering thanksgiving mass for good harvest

A priest carrying blessed corn in a procession while children offer flowers to Mother Mary to celebrate the birth of Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, in Mangalore on Tuesday.

For the Konkani-speaking Catholic community living in the coastal districts, September 8 has a special significance as the day is also celebrated as the day of the ‘New Corn’ (just like Onam in Kerala). The occasion is also marked by thanksgiving mass for the blessing of a good harvest.

As a preparation to the feast, children bring flowers arranged in trays, plates and baskets to their respective churches and offer them to Mother Mary on the nine days preceding the feast. Though it has been raining heavily for the last one week, there was bright sunshine on Tuesday morning and thousands of children brought flowers from far away places to their respective churches. Most of the parishes had arranged distribution of sugarcane to children who had brought flowers to offer to Mary.  As part of celebrations, parishioners donated rice, vegetables and coconuts among other things and the same is distributed to the poors in the parish besides to old age homes and orphanages.

Family feast
Traditionally, the feast was celebrated as a family feast with a ceremonial lunch in which only vegetables find a place in the day’s menu. Though in earlier times, up to 13 types of vegetable dishes (usually only odd numbers) were prepared, in the present times, most of the families limit it to five or seven. As an unwritten rule, Catholics avoid meat and alcohol on the day. This is also an occasion for all the family members to unite at the ceremonial lunch (it is a practice that if any member of the family can not attend the celebrations, the corn will be sent to them by post to far away places like the Gulf countries. However, Mangaloreans celebrate the feast in West Asia too, just the way it is celebrated in Mangalore). As per the tradition, after de-husking the corn blessed in the church, it is powdered and mixed with a dish made out of coconut milk and rice batter, and is partaken along with the lunch.  Many parishes had organised cultural programmes in the evening as most of the schools had declared holiday for the feast. The Holy Cross church in Kulshekar had organised a cultural programme in the evening. After the programmes, all the parishioners consumed the powdered corn with payasam.

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