Ponggal Celebration

ponggal 2

Ponggal is the Tamil harvest festival giving thanks to God and Mother Nature for the gift of a new harvest of rice after all the labour of the farmers. In India, Hindus as well as Christians celebrate it as we do here in Malaysia. Obviously, the religious connotations of the feast differ accordingly. Pongal means “overflowing/spilling over”, signifying abundance and prosperity. Newly harvested rice mixed with milk, sugar,cashews and raisins is boiled in a decorated new clay pot in a fireplace made for the purpose in open air. When the boiling rice fills up to the brim and overflows, family and neighbours stand around the pot and joyfully acclaim in thanksgiving, "Ponggalo, ponggal!" Then the sweet rice is shared by all present in an act of fellowship. The church entrance is also decorated with sugarcane, ‘thoranam’ and ‘kolams’, which in CDM is prepared by various individuals and parish groups. The Jews also celebrated the spring wheat harvest or first fruit festival as described in the Bible during the Jewish feast of Pentecost, on which the early Church experienced the day of outpouring of the Holy Spirit on humanity. The gift of the Spirit is the overflowing bounty of God´s grace on the human family. Ponggal is thus not just thanking God for blessings received, but also reminds us of the outpouring of the Spirit, promised by the prophet Joel and fulfilled at Pentecost. The outpouring of the Spirit causes the human heart to well up and overflow with love, which is expressed in actions of sharing and the gift of self. Sharing the sweet rice and other food reminding us of the agape or love meal of the early Church. It also evokes  themes of the Eucharist in which Christ Himself becomes our food and drink, and is the Supreme Ponggal, the gift of God´s overflowing love incarnated in human history. Thus, with this Eucharistic allusion, Ponggal becomes a challenge to us - sharing food at Ponggal should symbolize sharing our blessings in daily life. This year, the Ponggal mass in CDM is being celebrated in Tamil AND English, to encourage parishioners of all races to come and appreciate an aspect of Indian culture. Do come in Indian/national costumes.