Goan culture is a mixture of Indian and Portuguese influences. Dance and music are deeply rooted in the state of Goa. Look beyond the nightlife and beautiful beaches, and you will see the local folks immersed in tradition and celebrations.

1) Carnival

Carnival in Goa is in existence since the 18th century. It attracts tourists from around the world. Carnival comes from the Latin word which means “to take away meat” and is an indication of the 40-day fasting time of lent that follows. During this time, meat is abstained. Float parades are organized by the State Tourism department. Led by King Momo (a locally appointed person) he gives the message to everyone to eat, drink and be merry. People wear masks and colorful costumes and participate in the dancing and merriment of the float. Don’t forget to carry your eye mask with you and join in the celebrations. We suggest https://amzn.to/3H3m9tz

Delicious Goan food available during the festival is worth indulging.

When– February or March for four days

Where– Panjim, Vasco, Mapusa and Margao

Experience– Violins, drums, ghunats, and live bands all add to the energy and positive vibes of the festival. All this makes the Goan Carnival worth visiting.

King Momo at the Carnival float. Photo by thestatesman.com

2) Sao Joan (feast of St. John the Baptist)

As per religious beliefs, the Sao Joan festival is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, who leaped for joy in his mother’s womb when she was informed of the birth of Jesus Christ. Water bodies like wells, ponds, fountains, and rivers play an important role in the festival. Young men and boys jump in the water body to signify a “leap of joy” Villagers gather near the wells and cheered for the young boys dunking themselves in water. People greet each other by saying, Viva Sao Joan. It is also an occasion to know the newlywed son-in-law better. Traditionally, a headgear of fruits and leaves would be put on him, and he would be taken around the village and introduced to everyone.  Over the years, pool parties and Sao Joan private parties have taken over. People wear flower crowns on their heads. Music and dance are the priority now. A portable Bluetooth speaker like this one is a must for the party. https://amzn.to/3EZj0YZ

The festival is enjoyed more when it rains on that day. It also marks the start of the monsoon.

When– 24th June

Where– Goa

Experience– Songs are played on traditional instruments like gumott and cansaim. Boat parades, costume parties, and Goan folk songs add to the fun. Jumping into water bodies gives an adrenaline rush, making the festival even more special.

Local folks enjoying Sao Joan festival. Photo by golokaso.com

3) Christmas

Christmas is a meaningful festival for Catholics as it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Preparations start more than a week in advance, with making traditional sweets, decorating the Christmas tree, and setting up the lights and cribs. We suggest getting into the Christmas cheer by setting up a Christmas tree in your own home. Our recommendation is https://amzn.to/3gWimn3

Goa lights up with a sparkle of color, and the festive cheer is visible everywhere. Markets are buzzing with buntings and tinsel décor. Some places have Christmas Eve dances and fireworks shows. Festivities continue for a week as people visit friends and relatives, and exchange sweets and gifts. It is the perfect end to the calendar year.

When– 25th December

Where– Goa

Experience– Celebrations start on the 24th night with midnight mass, and the sweet melody of carols (songs) can be heard everywhere. The beautiful lights, and positive atmosphere makes it a great time to be in Goa.

Churches beautifully decorated in Goa for Christmas. Photo by gulfnews.com

4) Feast of St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier is the protector of Goa and is called “Goencho Sahib” The feast marks the death anniversary of ST. Francis Xavier. He preached the word of God, and his mortal remains were put in a casket and kept in the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church. It has been 400 years, and the body has not decomposed entirely. There is an interesting book about the life of this great saint. You can read it here https://amzn.to/3gYX7kz 9 days before the feast; novenas (prayers) are recited daily. It is a prominent yearly feast in Goa, attended by lakhs of devotees. The body of St. Francis Xavier is brought down for public viewing once every ten years, and the next one will be in 2024. Feast day offerings include flowers and candles.

When– 3rd December

Where– Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa

Experience– Devotees travel from far and wide to attend the feast. Queues of people wait patiently to enter the church and get a glimpse. There are fairs and stalls selling clothes, food and accessories.

Devotees waiting in line to get a glimpse of St. Francis Xavier body in the church. Photo by heraldgoa.in

5) Grape Escapade

Grape escapade is an annual wine festival. It attracts tourists, wineries, restaurateurs, etc. There are stalls with authentic food which one can gorge on. Grape escapade is organized by Goa Tourism Development Corporation. Grape stomping is one of the most fun activities to partake. Visitors can also enjoy various unique homemade wines like ginger, banana wine, apple wine, and bhinda(semi-wild fruits). Wines are available at discounted rates. International wine tasters also attend.

When– January or February

Where– Panjim, Goa

Experience– Groove to peppy music while enjoying entertainment acts, fashion shows, and wine tasting. The crowning of the Grape escapade Queen is the highlight of the festival.

Band performances at The Grape Escapade. Photo by @pixabay

6) Sunburn festival

Sunburn is the most popular EDM music festival in Goa. It was started in 2007 by Nikhil Chinappa and Percept entertainment. Today, it is Asia’s largest 3-day electronic music festival. The after-parties are a highlight of the festival, and are always looked forward to. Grammy award winners and renowned artists perform during this event. Tickets for the festival are chargeable and prices vary every year. Laser, SFX, Pyrotechnics, and high-quality acoustics are used. The entire atmosphere feels like one big party. Get into the party mood with these glow-in-the-dark accessories https://amzn.to/3B7yd9n

When– Last week of December

Where– Vagator

Experience– There is music, entertainment, flea markets for shopping, adventure sports,and camping at Vagator. Along with grooving to the music, one can also indulge in retail therapy.

Music performances at Sunburn. Photo by carnifest.com

7) Serendipity Arts Festival

Serendipity Arts Festival is organized by the Serendipity Arts Foundation. It is a multi-arts festival that includes music, dance, visual arts, film, theatre, and photography. Each segment is headed by a prominent curator in that field. The festival aims at promoting art and culture as well as including more people in the concept of community. The site for the festival varies from heritage buildings and public parks to riverboats and museums. The entire city of Panjim is transformed into installations of various types. The footfall for the festival is usually in lakhs, so it is advisable to register in advance.

When– December

Where– Panjim, Goa

Experience– To create engaging programs for visitors, there are special workshops, projects, and institutional engagements. The entire festival is a must-attend for art lovers.

Art display at Serendipity Arts Festival.