It was two years back, that for celebrating New Year’s Eve, we landed in the land of Churches, clubs, Sun, sand, shacks, parties, beaches, foreigners, food and Fenni. It was the time when the old order was about to change, yielding place to new….with major upheavals in the great world outside, but in Goa only little ripples were sufficient to usher the New Beginnings with gaiety and fervour.
Yes !! it was that time of the year, when, people had started trickling in, soon the numbers from few swelled up to lakhs. Women from all over the globe dressed in their best attires, resplendent in shimmering outfits, were all over the place, out sparkling the most sparkling of lights and lamps around.
Shacks were organizing various events, each luring the guests and tourists, with dance floors gaily festooned with sparkling streamers and balloons filled with silver foils, designed to burst at strategic moments and fill the air with fun and festivity. Revolving lights flickered in different colours, adding to the celebrations. The loud foot-tapping music was played at every nook and corner of the beaches. The madhouse rush with more number of people pouring in to welcome the new coming with dance and booze was a common sight.
The Christmas had just been over giving way to New Year celebrations, the quaint little houses were lined up with beautiful X-mas trees and with the depiction of the birth of Jesus Christ. The coconut trees around the houses enhanced their beauty. The Portuguese styled houses reminded me of the good times the Goan people still have, as they were living with past as well as present, in the form of rich and wealthy history on one side and on the other with tourists visiting with
The influx of foreigners, outsiders, to celebrate, for weekend getaways, honeymoon couples, for tours and travels on daily basis did not let Goans forget its’ deep rooted values.
Yes, the people of Goa are for sure very laid back, when in the evening, when the party just begins and the party hoppers were busy enjoying the serenity of the place by ordering a few snacks and drinks, the localites are already busy having their Supper , relishing and savouring the local delicacies .
New Year’s Eve is definitely a lifetime experience, if one happens to be in Goa, which invariably almost everyone knows about. Most of us would associate New Year’s Eve at Goa with boozy montage of crazy ‘beach party’ and wild night life, an out and out ‘partyland’ but various stories about the rich history and culture are scattered everywhere.
An old tradition still burns strong in the tiny villages of Goa, it is still practiced with enthusiasm .
Besides all these festivities, fireworks, bejewelled shacks with twinkling lights in the shacks and on the beaches, as we move out from all this, towards the old world charm of the place, surrounded by small houses and cottages, there is another side to Goa, which not many people outside the place know about. There is another celebrations goes about the age-old custom of Goa, which is still followed by the young generation there, but now in new presentation. About which we will find no mention in the brochures or magazines. This event takes place around the Christmas and New Year time only.
Children from various neighbourhoods make an effigy of old man and burn him at midnight to mark the ringing out of the old and ringing in of the new.
There is no history or record about the arrival or reasons pertaining to this event, but it is believed that it crept in Goa, when it was a Portuguese Colony.
The search on the Internet shows many similar practises, being followed in Colombia, New Mexico, Pureto Rico, and Cuba. Here “Mr. Old Year ” or Old Man Gloom, an embodiment of Year gone by, is set ablaze in order to welcome the promising New Year with clean state and purity.
Similarly, when I landed in Goa, I witnessed this quirky tradition. Local kids asking for donations to save the ailing old man ( made up of straw and stuffed with crackers) .
These effigies of the old-man were all suited-booted, with beard and hats, and were made to sit on the chair with Fenni bottles in the hands and cigarettes sticking out of their mouths, reminiscent of typical village drunk.
Kids ambushed every passing vehicle in hope of earning some donation.
Later at midnight, the community bid Goodbye to these effigies displayed outside each lane and the money collected was used to throw a party.
Old man here is a ‘metaphor’ of old, gone by times, so he is sent out, to ring in New year, new voyage, fresh arrivals. Some what similar to festival of Holi and Dusshehra, where Holika Dehan and Ravan Dehan takes place as a mark of victory of good over evil and effigies are burnt in fire.
As the year comes to an end, so does the old man as he has grown old with his vices, pains and sorrows, so it is the time to bid adieu to him.
And the people here , celebrate the whole thing, with great camaraderie and by mingling of young and old. By burning the effigy of the ‘old-man’, the date with the old man comes to an end as the New Year sets in.