Udupi: Christians in the temple district celebrated the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, with great religious fervour on Tuesday, September 8.
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’. The occasion is also marked by a thanksgiving mass for the blessing of a good harvest.
In St Antony’s Church Sastan, the liturgical service of the Monti Feast began at 8:00 am. As the hymn “Mariyek Hogolsiya” was sung, the children showered flowers at Mother Mary, brought specially for the occasion. Later, parish priest Fr John Walter Mendonca blessed the new corn.
During the homily, Fr John gave a special message to the little children, who had brought flowers to offer to Mother Mary, to dedicate their lives to her as they offered flowers. He also pointed out the significance of the day, the relationship between nature and human beings, observation as the Girls and Women’s Day, and its significance as the Family Day.
The Bishop of Udupi Diocese Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo celebrated the Monti Fest Special Mass with the people of Our Christ King Town Church Karkala.
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. Thousands of children had brought flowers from faraway places to their respective churches.
The festive mass is celebrated in various churches like Udupi, Shirva, Brahmavar, Karkala, Kundapur across the district. The new rice paddy sheaves were brought to the church in a procession by the “gurkars” (leaders) along with sugarcane, fruit and vegetables, which were solemnly blessed by the priest. Later, the blessed crop was distributed among adults, while children got sugarcane pieces.
Parishes had arranged the distribution of sugarcane to children who had brought flowers to offer to Mary while a few distributed sweets.
Traditionally, the feast is 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, at present, 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.
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 taken along with the lunch.