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 | Candria Misha D'Souza

Celebrating the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary with INFOCUS (Indian Families of Catholic Origin in the US)

This September, my Indian Catholic community here in the Bay Area, INFOCUS (Indian Families of Catholic Origin in the US), celebrated Mary’s Nativity at Santa Teresa Church in San Jose. During the event, families recreated traditional customs, including a procession with a baby Mary statue, singing "Sakkad Sangatha Mellyam," and adorning the statue with flowers. After Mass, we had a potluck with Indian dishes, a birthday cake for Mary, and fun games for all.

Keeping connected to family roots through traditions

My immediate family does not have any close relatives in this country. When we first discovered INFOCUS, we were delighted to see our people gathered in one place and sharing our Faith. It gave me a sense of belonging and togetherness; it made me feel accepted. I found a family in the community and a place to connect to people and express myself. My family wanted to keep close to our roots and keep our culture alive, now and in generations to come. By now, it has been more than 13 years, as my first meeting with INFOCUS was when I was two years old. 

A feast of many names

Mary’s nativity is a feast of utmost importance to the Konkani-speaking Catholic families in India. It has been vibrantly celebrated for many centuries and links us to shared memories of the Nativity feast that we celebrated with our parents and grandparents and is known by many names throughout the coastal cities that line the pristine shores of the Arabian Sea. It is known as Monti Fest in Mangalore and Goa, Mary of the Mount Feast in Bandra, Maharashtra; Nalpiravi in Kerala, and Velankanni Feast in Tamil Nadu, to name a few. Monti Fest serves as a heartwarming reminder of the importance of unity, tradition, and the profound significance of our faith.

The celebration itself

Participants attend a nine-day novena with vegetarian meals before the feast. They wear their finest attire to Mass, where the first produce is blessed. Some prepare sweet dishes like payasam or vorn. On the feast day, crushed blessed grains are mixed with sweetened milk, and elders offer thanksgiving prayers. Vegetarian dishes are served on banana leaves in odd numbers — odd numbers were associated with good luck in ancient Hinduism, and this tradition remains culturally integrated into Indian Catholicism today. Individuals unable to attend receive blessed grains via snail mail. 

The importance of community

My involvement with INFOCUS goes beyond this special event. It gives me the chance to lector during Mass and volunteer in small activities like get-togethers. It has propelled me to become involved in my larger community and my school. It has boosted my confidence and given me a diverse perspective about different cultures. It fills me with pride and joy to be a part of the Bay Area’s diverse community. Celebrating Mother Mary’s nativity feast is a reminder to follow in her footsteps, be humble, be obedient to God's will, and love one another unconditionally. The celebrations on the feast day draw families and the community closer together and have the potential for mending broken relationships, as Mother Mary would have wanted. I would say that Mother Mary has a special place for youth in her heart and that even a small prayer that honors Mary yields an abundance of blessings from her.

Candria is a high school sophomore at Milpitas High School. She has been a member of INFOCUS for 13 years, is one of two siblings, and enjoys reading books and playing classical piano when she is not writing.