Disclaimer: This article on festivals and events in Goa was originally written prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. We urge you not to attend any gatherings until the pandemic is under control. Please do read about these delightful festivals so you can plan to attend once we are over this global crisis. Till then, practise social distancing and good hygiene. Stay safe.
India is a melting pot of different religions, cultures and languages; thanks to which we celebrate a multitude of festivals and events with the same enthusiasm and joy. But each state celebrates multiple cultures and Goa is no different with 2020 lining up festivals and events in Goa around food, religion, wine, and even wells!
The Unmissable Festivals And Events In Goa And What To Do At Them This Year
1Get A Taste Of ‘Goan Holi’ Or Shigmo
One of the most popular Hindu festivals in Goa, Shigmo or Shigmotsav, takes place in the Konkani diaspora of Goa in commemoration of the Hindu god of love, Kamadeva as he had disturbed Lord Shiva while he was at penance. This festival can be considered as Goa’s take on Holi, as this grand two-week celebration of spring and colour starts with prayers and ends with huge parades and loud parties, quite similar to Holi. While there are amazing floats and parades which are the highlight of the festival, don’t miss the main Shigmo parade, as it will depict the common life of Goan people through performances.
Where: Across 14 parts of Goa like Ponda, Mapusa, Panji, Margao, Pernem, Vasco, etc.
When: 21st March
Don’t miss: Check out the large processions across the streets, dancing traditional dances like Ghode Modni and Fugdi, accompanied by traditional instruments.
2Try Some Goan Specials At Goa Cashew And Coconut Fest
Started in 2014, the Goa Cashew and Coconut Fest have added greatly to the economy of the state. It focuses on the use of cashews and coconuts in traditional Goan lifestyles. It showcases various cashew drinks and coconut products. It tries to bring together the local artisans of Goa to create unique experiences for tourists. Experience cashew stomping, coconut breaking and get a taste of exotic feni cocktails.
When: April or May
Don’t miss Cashew feni and poi (typical Goan bread) filled with meat.
3Jump Into A Well For Sao Joao Festival
The Sao Joao festival is immensely popular in North Goa and comes from Goa’s Portuguese heritage. The Catholic festival is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, who, according to Christian scriptures, leapt with joy in his mother, Elizabeth’s womb, when she was told of the birth of Christ. Devotees celebrate this festival in a unique manner, by leaping into and swimming in, domestic drinking water wells, ponds or even streams, to retrieve the gifts thrown in by villagers. Held at the beginning of the monsoon season in Goa, this festival has youngsters wearing crowns of leaves and feathers called ‘kopels’, carrying bottles of feni or the spirit Goa is known for (made from cashews or toddy palm) advancing through the village.
Where: North Goa
When: 24 June
Don’t Miss: Colorful boat races that are organized in Soilom, a village in North Goa’s Bardez taluka and pool parties.
4Take Part In A Bit Of History With Saptah Festival
This century-old festival is dedicated to Lord Damodar and begins on the sixth day of the Hindu month of Shravan, following Nag Panchami. According to legend, in the late 19th century, there was a plague epidemic in the city. Due to the poor health facilities of the time, the locals turned to Lord Damodar, an incarnation of Lord Shiva for help. The residents went to Zambaulim temple (near Margao) and brought back a coconut as prasad to be installed for worship in Vasco. The initial installation was at Old Mata High School. Their prayers were answered and the epidemic died down. Today, after the installation of shreephal (the anointed coconut), the devotees sing bhajans and devotional songs for 24 hours. Vasco Saptah or Saptah Festival is one of the most interesting festivals in Goa.
Where: Vasco region of Goa
When: Begins on 16th August and continues for 7 days.
Don’t Miss: The anointing ceremony of the Shreephal and the parade of tableaux (held during the night) for the entire week where culture and religious programs are held.
5Feel The Power Of Faith At The Feast Of St Francis Xavier
The Feast of St Francis Xavier is dedicated to the Catholic missionary and observed each year in Goa. This popular festival is a regional public holiday in Goa. St Francis Xavier is the patron saint of Goa, who helped establish Christianity in India, the Malay archipelago, and Japan. The annual feast commemorates his death anniversary. Every year from 21 November to 2 January, believers from all over the world gather to celebrate the life of St Francis. Don’t miss the extravagant carnival organised from 21 November onwards. The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa holds the relics of St Francis Xavier, visited by thousands of devotees on the eve.
Where: Basilica of Bom Jesus
When: 3 December
Don’t Miss: The beautiful Basilica of Bom Jesus which is a UNESCO heritage site and the final resting place of the remains of St Francis
6Shop, Drink And Celebrate An Authentic Goan Christmas
Christmas is celebrated by all religions in Goa. While Goa may not be your typical winter wonderland, and you can hardly expect a “white Christmas” here, it is still one of India’s most Christmassy destinations. Goa gets ready for the grandest of all celebrations with grand traditional midnight masses, bustling market places embellished with trinkets, and glittering Christmas trees all across the state.
Where: All across the state
When: The week leading up to 25 December
Don’t Miss: Delicious Christmas cake prepared especially during this festival and fireworks!
7Stuff Your Face At The Goa Food And Cultural Festival
The Goa Food and Cultural Festival is an amalgamation of unlimited food and fun throughout. This amazing fusion of food and entertainment is hosted on the Campal ground for 3 days where everyone from homemakers and restaurateurs to high-profile chefs and 5-star hotels take part in the festival exhibiting their culinary art. Along with the lip-smacking food here at numerous stalls, one will also be entertained with performances from live bands.
When: We will update once dates for 2021 are out
Don’t Miss: Delectable Goan delicacies, colourful floats, eclectic performances and the cooking competition
8“Eat Drink And Be Merry” At The Carnival 2021
Celebrated primarily in the four major cities of Goa, namely, Panaji, Mapusa, Vasco and Margao, this 3 to 4 day-long festival is one of the hottest and most happening festivals in Goa. The Carnival was introduced by the Portuguese settlers and was originally celebrated by the Catholics. The local residents believe that Goa comes under the rule of King Momo during this carnival season, where the king invites everyone to “eat, drink and make merry.” Today, it is a riot of colours and energy spreading positivity all around and dominating the streets with extravagant dance and music performance.
Carnival or the ‘Intruz’ kicks off on Fat Saturday (Sabado Gordo) and continues till Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday), a day before Ash Wednesday that marks as the first day of the season of Lent.
Where: Panjim, Mapusa, Margoa and Vasco Da Gama
When: We will update once dates for 2021 are out
Don’t Miss: The sawdust fight!
9Wine And Dine At The Grape Escapade Festival
Held every year since 2005, the Grape Escapade is a popular gourmet and unique cultural celebration in Goa. Since its inception, this world-renowned Wine Festival has provided a platform for local entrepreneurs to share expertise, display products and engage in B2B. The festival is organized by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) in association with Goa Tourism and offers tourists and locals an opportunity to savour on flavours from the vineyard, taste Goan food and experience Goa’s traditions and culture.
The four-day festival combines exclusive wine tasting, live music, fashion shows, and haute cuisine. One can even try homemade fruit wines here such as Banana wine, Apple wine, and Bhinda wine made of semi-wild fruits, which are not commonly available at retail stores.
When: January 2021
Don’t Miss: The ‘Wine- Stomping’ sessions and Crowning of the ‘Grape Escapade Queen’
10Shake A Leg At Sunburn Goa
Sunburn is Asia’s biggest electronic dance festival. Since it was launched in 2007, this festival’s huge main stage has showcased sets from esteemed artists such as Afrojack, Armin van Buuren and Axwell along with food, and shops. The festival is all set to take place against the backdrop of white sands, gorgeous red cliffs, stunning sunsets and the endless sea at Vagator Beach. Get ready for a weekend of pulsating EDM and see why it is one of the world’s most talked-about electronic music festivals alongside the likes of Tomorrowland and Ultra. The last edition included sets from Martin Garrix, Flume, Dj Snake, The Chainsmokers, Maceo Plex, Luciano, Jonas Blue, Lost Frequencies and Fedde Le Grand.
As the lineup is usually announced closer to the festival, we will update as the Sunburn 2021 comes closer.
Where: Vagator Beach, Goa
When: Date to be announced for 2020
So, Are You Catching Any Of These Festivals And Cultural Events In Goa?
This is a view of Goa that is not the most common. You can observe, or even participate in some of these popular festivals. But keep in mind that during these festivals and events in Goa there tend to be more crowds than usual. It’s also an opportunity to understand the culture of the tiny vacation state and come back home with more than just a tan.