Christmas 2022: Goan To Portuguese Consoada
Image Credit: Portuguese Christmas eve supper, nutri_marta_carrilho@Instagram

No other region in India celebrates Christmas with pomp and gaiety as Goa does. Be its the native sweetmeats soaked in the sweetness of tradition or those grand savoury elaborate minimalistic dishes, the food scene of Goan Christmas is unrivalled. One can observe similar enthusiasm in Goan Christians and Ango-Indians towards alcoholic beverages. Especially during festivities like Christmas, it adds to the holiday mood. Amidst desserts, sweets, savoury culinary fares, cakes and boozy drinks, the locals keep a few customs close to their hearts. One among them is Consoada. This ancient ritual has layers of meanings to it. And in Goa, it slightly changes its connotation in a few regions than the original essence of it. 

Consoada, its meaning, and Goan traditions

Consoada: What does it signify? It has a deep-rooted connection with Christmas Eve dinner time. The term consoada originates from the Latin phrase Consolata, meaning comfort. In the past, people spent December 24 in church praying and fasting, followed by the "Missa do Galo" or mass of the rooster – Midnight Mass. They would congregate at home and eat light fare.

A typical light meal on December 24, Image Source: principedomonte@Instagram

Fish used to be part of that supper. As a result, they would be relieved after a day of abstinence from food.  Unfortunately, fasting started to phase out gradually. However, many families still assemble to dine poached codfish or bacalhau, eggs, mashed potatoes, and broccoli rabe or Portuguese greens, followed by traditional sweets that vary by province.

One would be surprised to know that Consoada has an entirely different significance in a few pockets of this state. Many families would organise a hamper with homemade holiday delicacies such as dodol, oddes, bebinca, kulkul, neureos, baath cake, bolinhas, mandares, etc. on Christmas eve. Fruit would sometimes be included. It would be sent to families grieving the loss of a loved one and are not commemorating Christmas. The ritual gradually fades as many lack the time and help to prepare Christmas treats. The Consoada is therefore restricted today to sending festive-appropriate sweets to family members or extremely close friends who are in mourning and would otherwise not celebrate Christmas.

Goan Consoada  arrangement, Image Source:

In this perspective, sending the Consoada is meaningful since it attempts to comfort or console someone who has lost a loved one. However, the practice of Consoada in Portugal is vastly different from that of Goa.

Consoada and Portugal

In the past, residents in Portugal, as in most European countries, used to keep their doors open on Christmas Day to welcome any visitors and pilgrims. The objective was to socialise with the gracious family on December 25.

Earlier, during an interview with the Herald, Dr Virgilio Nogueira, an evangelist of Portuguese eating habits, shared that the Roman Catholic Church significantly influenced the Portuguese populace's food habits until the twentieth century. Meat consumption was prohibited from the start of Advent. Thus, the Christmas Eve dinner comprised codfish, potatoes, and other vegetables. In Portugal, this diminutive supper is known as Consoada. Arriving at their ancestral houses after a long and chilly journey, kith and kins were comforted by the supper shared with family members at the table.

Having dinner together on Christmas eve, Image Source: lifestyleaominuto@Instagram

Regarding Goa, the practice of sending Consoada is entirely inherited from the Hindu forefathers. When the Catholic Community in Goa sends it to bereaved Catholic relatives and friends during Christmas, it is known as Consoada. In other instances, this custom is referred to as Vhojem. It is simply a societal norm that existed before the entry of the Portuguese in Goa.