Time to celebrate – cultural festivities in Toronto

September is a unique month when one can attend or take part in the numerous festivals held to celebrate the end of summer and beginning of Fall in the northern hemisphere.  It also coincides with the harvest festivals celebrated in other parts of the world.

One such celebration is Monthi Fest which is celebrated around the world by the Konkan community of south India particularily the Mangaloreans. This festival is closely linked to the harvest festivals celebrated in southern India like Onam and Pongal.

Monthi Fest is celebrated on September 8 or the weekend around that date, in honour of the Nativity of Our Lady by Christians and other faiths alike This is similar to Bandra Feast that is celebrated in Mumbai, India by people who go on a pilgrimage to Mount Mary a church on a hill and there after to feast at the various food stalls along the route and make merry during the week of celebration.

Monthi Fest is an annual celebration in Toronto where people gather to pray and celebrate with family and friends by eating and drinking special food as they remember their cultural identity through rituals, songs and dances. Children too play a part of showering flower petals while the statue of Our Lady is taken in a procession in the church yard.

The cultural activities takes place in a hall where people gather. Before the meal a special drink called Novem, a preparation made with the newly harvested rice (paddy), which is mixed in milk or coconut milk was served in shot glasses to the guests. People then  cheered and drank to each others health. This ritual goes back to the first grains of the harvest which are blessed and shared in the community and to families as a symbol of Reunion and Thanksgiving.

The Buffet meal which followed consisted of seven different vegetables preparations with rice and dhal (pulses) served on a banana leaf. We were given disposible plates under the banana leaf to make the eating experience easy.  The food was delicious and tasty, it was catered by Udupi Restaraunt of Toronto which is known for their vegetarian dishes. For desert we had the traditional vorn or payasam a sweet dish made with mung dal ( pulse), coconut milk and jaggery.

The cultural festivities consisted of a variety of Bollywood and other cultural dances with members of the community and their children taken part. The dancers were dressed in colourful costumes and saries and it was a beautiful display of talent. The evening continued with games and dancing.

People came away with fond remembrances of their homeland as they were transported to another world even though for a short period of time.
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