The Tamil festival of Thai Ponggal is a thanksgiving ceremony in which the farmers celebrate the event to thank God for yielding a successful harvest. This year at St. Joseph’s Church, the harvest festival was celebrated on 14th January 2024. Our Theme this year was “Rebuild the Church”
The Tamil Apostolate of St. Joseph’s Church under the advice and guidance of our Parish Priest Reverend Father Frederick Joseph started planning the celebration in the middle of December 2023. Headed by the assistant coordinator, Ezekial Louis, a vibrant youth and assisted by another vibrant youth Jesu with their team planned the whole event.
On the eve of the event, the youths stayed up to 4 am to arrange the tables, tying the banana trees and sugar canes at the entrances of the church. The courtyard was also decorated with coloured flags and “thoranam”. The girls decorated the entrance of the church with a beautiful “kolam” made of coloured rice.
Cultural games such as decorating the pot, tying jasmine flowers, eating sugar cane and hitting the pot were organised and the winners were presented with souvenirs.
Twenty individual families under the guidance of Sister Velangkani and her team cooked the ponggal. Reverend Father Frederick Joseph said the prayers and began the event by pouring the milk into each pot. This event was not only participated by the Tamil speaking Community but the English-speaking community, Sri Lankan Community as well as Myanmar Community. This event helped the community realize the importance of promoting, respecting and valuing our cultures and traditions not only among the Tamil-speaking community but also other language speaking communities lifting the barriers of indifference. All those who took part in the cooking the sweet rice were overwhelmed and happy to participate as practically, for most of them, this was the first time in their lifetime they had cooked the ponggal. Each and every one congratulated the team for calling them to participate in this event. Out of the 24 pots, one pot was taken to give as thanksgiving . From the balance of the 19 pots, a small portion of the cooked ponggal was taken to serve the parishioners and the balance returned to the owners of the pot.
The cultural games and cooking of the ponggal started at 3.00 pm and ended at 5pm. Throughout the event the classical music “nadaswaram” was played. Rosary was recited at 5.30 pm followed by mass at 6.00 pm. The procession for the mass started from Courtyard A. Reverend Father George Harrison carried the Ponggal accompanied with Reverend Father Frederick Joseph. Both the priests were wrapped in “Ponnadai” before the mass and accompanied with the “nadaswaram” entered the church in a procession until the altar. At the Altar, the priests first were welcomed with “aarathi” by 3 ladies. After that Reverend Father George Harrison took the “aarathi” from the ladies and welcomed the congregation. During the mass our catechetical students did the “Malar, Thubam and Theebam Aarathanai” heightening the liturgy celebration giving all glory to God.
Reverend Father George Harrison in his sermon said that the Ponggal festival is celebrated to offer the first reap of the harvest as thanksgiving to God. He also mentioned that in the Old Testament, God had asked his people to offer their first harvest as thanksgiving to him. To commemorate that, we offer the Ponggal as thanksgiving to God. He also mentioned that as God’s children we should “Turun Padang” and offer ourselves as thanksgiving to God in living our faith.
At the end of the mass, Reverend Father Frederick said the Malaysian former Prime Minister when he went to India mentioned that Malaysia is a country where other cultural celebrations should not be celebrated. But despite that comment, we Malaysians and as Tamilians have celebrated the Ponggal festival without any diversity and with one heart and soul to show our unity.
After mass, a sumptuous banana leaf dinner was served comprising of 12 types of vegetarian dishes, ponggal, payasam and drinks to approximately 400-450 parishioners. The cooking was headed by brother Michael and his team. Kudos to the team for the lovely dinner
It was a joyful event participated by everyone. All praise and glory to God for being with the team in every aspect.
Tamil Apostolate Coordinator