British Konkani Community celebrates Nativity fest in London
- Sushma Lobo

London, Sep 10 (BAN): On Sunday 8th September at the English Martyrs Church, in Wembley the British Konkani community celebrated the Monthi fest festival. Monthi Fest is a major Mangalorean (South Indian) Catholic festival falling on 8 September every year celebrating the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in the Mangalorean Catholic community involves blessing of Novem (new crops). Preparations to honour the Mother Mary start nine days prior along with novena prayers.

The festival derives its name from the Monte Mariano Church at Farangipet in South Canara, and was initiated by Joachim Miranda, a Goan Catholic priest at Farangipet in 1763.

The Lobo Family along with UK Konkans, KKL, Prayer Group and MUKA hosted and celebrate the festival every year with the British Konkani community. This year they hosted the 23rd Monthi fest celebration in the UK with anopen invitation to all Catholic Mangalorean’s. With over 350 people attending it was a joyous community gathering to celebrate the festival in its traditional way.

The blessed day in London, Wembley, celebrated Mother Mary’s birthday with a procession of children with decorated baskets full of flowers and the Lobo family members following withfreshly grown paddy corn, a small statue of infant Mary and a statue of Virgin Mary followed by a congregation of devotees singing folk hymns.

As prayers were sung the children offered flowers to the Virgin Mary statue which was sat in a bed of flowers, children were clearlyenjoying the joyous event and the congregation were celebrating in the traditional style.

The flower offering was followed by devotees, including children with flowers and community leaders with the paddy corn entering the church in a procession as an offering of the first bounty of nature to Mother Mary. A small statue of infant Mary is placed on a table in front of the altar. The paddy corn is placed next to the statue to be blessed and distributed to the congregation after mass. The first grain is hence offered in prayer and blessed, to be further distributed among families. The mass was conducted by Parish priest, Fr. Albert – who managed to say a welcome in Konkani and surprised the crowd. Fr. Agnelo & Fr. Rathan from the Mangalorean community headed the Mass. The parish secretary Mary helped support the congregation as they entered. The Konkani community choir headed by Violet performed beautifully through the Mass.

Monthi fest is also a harvest festival,celebrating the first harvest crops and only vegetarian food is served on the day. Each year the Lobo Family has caterers cook on site freshly made hot food, 7 delicious vegetarian dishes are served to all guest catered by Umesh of Jayalalitha. Lunch is finished with the perfect sweet dish the vorn, a rich and comforting moong dal desert with coconut milk and jaggery, something everybody looks forward to and is made traditionally by Mrs Lobo herself each year.

Mass and lunch were followed by a entertaining cultural program with recognition for high achievers in this year’s GCSE’s and A ‘levels, although a small community they awarded 9 teenagers for excellent grades. We were inspired and certainly the highlight of the program was a young girl, Avia not much older than 5-6 years of age, performed a song on stage in Konkani with her older brother, Aaron playing the keyboard. There were performances from the community with comedy acts, singing and MC Tom got the crowd all moving, dancing and laughing.

Roland and Dr Margie Saldana in their speech thanked the Lobo family forup keeping this tradition in the UK allowing all Mangalorean’s to unite and celebrate together and thanked all guest for attending and along with the Lobo family helping to keep the tradition alive.

The host Richard Lobo on behalf of UK Konkans, KKL, Prayer Group, and MUKA at the end of the event thanked in his speech “the Parish priest, Father Albert, and the community priest Fr. Agnelo and Fr. Rathan, the church secretary, Mary. All the congregations and the children who brought flower baskets, the Man of the match, MC Tom, music by Melvin, the choir group headed by Violet, special thanks to pillars of the community, Melvin, Ronny, Helen. Ceaser,Lloyd,  Santosh, Sunil, Arun, Crasta, Thomas and all Presidents of Associations, Roland & Dr. Margie Saldana, all entertainment performers, especially the children, catering Umesh of Jayalalitha, all volunteers and my family”.

On that note the festive celebrations concluded and what abeautiful sunny day it was to celebrate a beautiful birthday, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birthday with everyone dressed in their traditional best, smiles on their faces and love in their hearts.

 

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