Shigmotsav (Shigmo), March
Feast of St Francis Xavier, December
The prime time for visiting Goa, January means blue skies and warm weather, making it perfect for hitting the beach but not too hot for getting to grips with the state’s cities and wildlife sanctuaries.
Feast of the Three Kings
Also known as the ‘Procession of the Umbrellas’, this is one of Goa’s most attended festivals, wherein a solid silver statue of Hindu goddess Shantadurga from the Kunkalikarin Temple is carried between the villages of Fatorpa and Cuncolim, fronted by 12 umbrella-carrying young men.
Festa das Bandeiras
Migrant working men return home to Divar Island in mid-January to celebrate their local saint’s day by waving the flags of the countries in which they’re currently working and, more bizarrely, firing dozens of peashooters at each other.
The celebration of India's 1950 establishment as a republic is a public holiday, held every 26 January.
Another reliably warm and sunny month for lazing on the beach or seeing the sights, February sees fewer crowds than January and a few festivals.
In February, this festival lasting ten days sees the Hindu monkey god Hanuman celebrated at Panaji’s Maruti Temple.
To celebrate the traditional anniversary of the God Shiva’s wedding day, large-scale religious celebrations are held at the many Shiva temples across Goa on the 14th (moonless) night of the new moon, in the Hindu month of Phalgun, which falls in either February or March. Upcoming dates: 21 February 2020, 11 March 2021.
Things are starting to heat up considerably by now, but it’s still high season in Goa – good for beach lounging, swimming and Easter celebrations.
Four days of mirth and mayhem characterise Panaji’s annual Carnival, held on the days prior to Lent. Festivities begin with Sabado Gordo (Fat Saturday), when you’ll see a procession of floats through the city’s packed streets.
Procession of All Saints
Held in Goa Velha on the fifth Monday during Lent, this is the only procession of its sort outside Rome, where dozens of huge statues of the saints are paraded throughout the village.
Goa’s take on the Hindu festival of Holi marks the onset of spring over the full moon period with statewide parades, processions, and revellers flinging huge quantities of water and coloured tikka powder with wild abandon.
Most tourists have departed Goa, and temperatures begin rising in anticipation of the monsoon, still over a month away. If you can stand the heat, it’s quiet and calm, with great deals on accommodation.
Feast of Our Lady of Miracles
Held in Mapusa 16 days after Easter, this cheerful festival, also known as a tamasha, is famously celebrated by both Hindus and Christians at Mapusa’s Church of Our Lady of Miracles.
Churches fill up statewide over the Christian festival of Easter, with plenty of solemn High Masses and family feasting. The biggest church services are held in Panaji and Old Goa.
Marked by 30 days of dawn-to-dusk fasting, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar is when Muslims traditionally turn their attention to God, with a focus on prayer, purification and charitable giving. Ramadan begins around 24 April 2020 and 13 April 2021.
May is perhaps the most uncomfortable month in Goa, with heat, humidity, and everyone awaiting the coming of the rains. Most tourist operators have closed for the season.
Igitun chalne is one of Goa’s most distinctive festivals, specific to the temple in Sirigao (near Corjuem Fort). Igitun chalne means ‘fire-walking’, and the high point comes when devotees of the goddess Lairaya traverse a pit of burning coals to prove their devotion.
Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan with three days of festivities, beginning 30 days after the start of the fast. Upcoming dates: 24 May 2020, 13 May 2021.
It’s here! The monsoon’s arrival sparks a host of celebrations, and the land turns miraculously green overnight. Water buffalo bask, children dance in the showers, and frogs croak out elated choruses.
Feast of St Anthony
This feast on 13 June in honour of Portugal’s patron saint takes on particular significance if the monsoon is late in appearing, whereupon each Goan family must lower a statue of the saint into its family well to hasten the onset of the rains and pray for bountiful crops.
The Feast of St John (Sanjuan) on 24 June sees young men diving dangerously into wells to celebrate the monsoon’s arrival, and torching straw dummies of the saint himself, to represent John’s baptism and, consequently, the death of sin.
The annual Feast of St Peter and St Paul on 29 June marks another monsoonal celebration, and is particularly ebullient in Candolim, where boats are tied together to form floating stages and costumed actors play out tiatrs (Konkani dramas) to vast crowds.
Though the monsoon is slowly receding, the rains are still a-coming; fishermen await calmer waters and local life goes on, almost tourist-free.
In both Goa and Mumbai, a coconut offering is made to Lord Varuna, god of the sea, to mark the start of the post-monsoon fishing season; fisherman pray for a bountiful harvest before hitting the first choppy waves of the August seas.
India’s 1947 independence from Britain is celebrated with an annual public holiday on 15 August.
Feast of the Chapel
Coastal Cabo Raj Bhavan draws scores of visitors each 15 August to a special church service in honour of its 500-year-old chapel’s feast day, which long pre-dates Independence Day.
Celebrated annually on the fourth Saturday in August on sleepy Divar Island. Locals take part in processions and mock battles to commemorate historical disputes that took place over island property.
The rains have all but subsided, leaving a scoured, green Goa just ripe for the upcoming tourist season. Local businesses begin building the season’s first beach shacks. Popular time for domestic tourists.
Though not all beach businesses are in full swing, October’s warm days tempt a trickle of in-the-know travellers, who benefit from the widest choice in long-stay accommodation.
Feast of the Menino Jesus
On October’s second Sunday, coastal Colva’s village church sees its small and allegedly miracle-working statue of the Infant Jesus dressed up and paraded before scores of devoted pilgrims at this important village festival.
This nine-day Hindu festival celebrates the god Rama’s victory over Ravana in the Hindu epic Ramayana, and the goddess Durga’s victory over Mahishasura. It’s celebrated with bonfires and school-children’s performances of scenes from the life of Rama. Upcoming dates: 25 October 2020, 14 October 2021.
Held in October or November, the five-day Hindu ‘festival of lights’ celebrates the victory of good over evil with the lighting of oil and butter lamps around the home, lots of family celebration and loads of firecrackers. Upcoming dates: 27 October 2019, 14 November 2020, 4 November 2021.
The national holiday of Gandhi Jayanti is a solemn celebration of Mohandas Gandhi’s birth, on 2 October.
High season really kicks off in November, when the countryside remains post-monsoon green, and Goans gear up for the tourist onslaught. This, along with February, is perhaps the best time to visit.
Feast of Our Lady of Livrament
Each mid-November sees a cheerful saint’s day street fair set up in Panaji, outside the tiny Chapel of St Sebastian, in the Goan capital’s atmospheric old Portuguese-infused Fontainhas district.
International Film Festival of India
This annual film festival – the country’s largest – graces Panaji’s big screens with a gaggle of Bollywood’s finest glitterati jetting in for premieres, parties, ceremonies and screenings.
Packed with parties, December is the wildest, busiest and most expensive month to be in Goa, especially between Christmas and New Year. Seek out trance parties, Christmas parades and feasting.
Feast of St Francis Xavier
Thousands upon thousands of pilgrims file past the shrivelled old remains of St Francis Xavier in Old Goa every 3 December, kicking off a week-long festival and fair, complete with large-scale open-air Masses.
Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
Panaji’s wedding-cake Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception plays host to this feast and large, joyful fair on 8 December.
This unusually sober celebration on 17 December marks Goa’s ‘liberation’ from Portugal by India in 1961 with military parades.
Goa Arts & Literacy Festival
Inaugurated in 2010, this is one of Goa's premier literary and arts festivals (www.goaartlitfest.com), attracting writers, poets, artists, musicians, speakers and performers to Panaji (Dona Paula) over four days in early December.
Serendipity Arts Festival
Launched in 2016, this eight-day arts festival (www.serendipityartsfestival.com) features visual and performance arts at multiple venues in Panaji, as well as street exhibitions and events.
Midnight Masses abound in Goa on 24 December, traditionally known as Misa de Galo (‘Cock’s Crow’) since they often stretch on far into the wee hours, while the following Christmas Day is celebrated with feasting, fireworks and festivities.
Siolim’s multifaith Zagor, which takes place on the first Sunday after Christmas, involves a procession culminating in folk plays, music and celebrations.
New Year's Eve
This is the party night many travellers have been waiting for. Fireworks displays erupt up and down the coast and dance parties take over the beaches. Book ahead for dining or club venues.