Pomp and gaiety mark Mary's birthday

Pomp and gaiety mark Mary's birthday

The occasion is also marked by thanksgiving mass for a good harvest

Members of Christian community in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kasargod districts celebrated the birthday of Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, with religious fervour, pomp and gaiety 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 ‘New Corn or harvest.’ 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, and baskets to their respective churches and offer them to Mother Mary on the nine days preceding the feast.

New corn
In fact, hundreds of children had brought flowers from far away places to their respective churches in the coastal districts on Tuesday. However, as the prayers began in the morning (8 am), it started raining and the procession was either cut short or cancelled in some churches. Soon after the mass, the new corn was distributed to parishioners. Prior to the commencement of the mass, the first corn from the field (usually from one or few fields belonging to a parishioner) is brought to the Altar in a procession, which will be blessed by the priest.

Most of the parishes had arranged for distribution of sugar cane to children who had brought flowers to offer them to Mary while a few distributed sweets.

As a part of celebrations, parishioners donated rice, vegetables and coconuts among other things and the same was distributed to the poor in the parish besides to old age homes and orphanages. At the end of the mass, the blessed ears of paddy, corn and sugar canes were taken home by the people.

Get together
In fact, traditionally, the feast was celebrated as a family feast with a ceremonial lunch, in which only vegetarian food is served.

In the past as many as 11 or 13 varieties of vegetarian dishes (usually in odd numbers) were prepared. However, now a majority of the families limit it to five or seven dishes. Catholics also avoid meat and alcohol on the day.

The day is also an occasion for all the family members to unite. It is a practice that if any member of the family cannot attend the celebrations, then an ear of paddy or corn will be sent to them by post. Sometimes they are sent as far as West Asian countries, US and Europe.

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.

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