India celebrates Christmas

Mumbai, Dec 25 Christmas was celebrated with joy and fervor by over a million Christians spread across Mumbai and Maharashtra, here on Tuesday.

Early in the day the faithfuls thronged around 200 big and small churches in the city and suburbs marking the birth of Jesus Christ.

Many rang in the Christmas at midnight of Monday-Tuesday singing carols, hymns, sounding church bells and greeting each other ‘Merry Christmas’.

Several lakhs draped in warm finery, attended the special Midnight Mass in churches, schools, colleges or open grounds which started at 10 p.m. on Monday that lasted till early on Tuesday.

Colaba, Fort, Mazagaon, Byculla, Marine Lines, Mumbai Central, Dadar, Bandra, Santacruz, Andheri, Malad and Borivali have been wearing a dazzling festive atmosphere since a week in Mumbai.

Gigantic multi-coloured stars, with “Merry X’Mas” in large letters, have been put up in prominent squares, housing complexes and other places.

Most Christian homes were lit up with Christmas stars, twinkling fairy lights, colourful festoons, big and small Christmas Trees and the benevolent Santa Claus.

Mumbai’s newest landmark, the Worli Christmas Tree, holding a record as the country’s tallest naturally growing pine conifer tree, is now around 67 feet tall and beckons one from far away.

Tended lovingly since over 46 years by Douglas Saldanha and his elder sister Twila, who passed away in 2005, the tree shines in full glory with a big star at the top, over 10,000 fairy lights, cherubic angels, little fairies, reindeers and snowmen, streamers and festoons, tiny crosses and a paunchy and cheerful Santa, outside the Adarsh Nagar home.

“This year, the tree stands at more than an eight-storied building. We had a special inaugural event last evening and now many people have started coming to view,” Saldanha told IANS.

Following the Midnight Mass festivities, there were big and small private parties.

Many youngsters and adults in Santa costumes went around distributing sweets and gifts to small children and the poor, visited orphanages, destitute homes and charitable organisations to spread love.

A majority of the malls, multiplexes and shopping plazas were specially decked up to lure buyers offering special festive season discounts and freebies.

Thane, Palghar, Ratnagiri, Nashik, Pune, Solapur and other cities also celebrated the birth of Christ.

Various Christian communities, like Roman Catholics, East Indians, Marathi, Konkani, and others celebrated it in their own traditional ways.

Many also availed their year-end break to hillstations or beaches, with most tourist resorts in Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Jawhar, coastal Konkan booked to their brim till New Year week.

 

Aizawl/Kohima, Dec 25 Christmas was celebrated on Tuesday in the Northeastern states with special prayers, hymns and masses in churches, followed by the traditional community feasting.

Over 5.3 million Christians live in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur, while there is a significant number of them in Tripura, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Governors and Chief Ministers of all the seven states conveyed their warm greetings to the people on the day.

Extensive security arrangements were made for peaceful passage as festivities were planned for day and night.

The celebrations began from Monday night with church services where the congregation sang Christmas carols.

Strict vigil was kept at all entry points along the borders of Assam, Tripura and Myanmar.

Community feasts would be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in most of the villages and urban localities.

Mizoram celebrated its 148th year of Christmas celebration after it was started by the colonial British troops back in 1871.

The state, however, will be celebrating a dry Christmas and New Year as the new Mizo National Front government has declared dry days from December 21 to January 14.

In Nagaland, the Christmas and New Year celebration would be low key following a dispute arising out of the burial of a Bible in Wokha district.

Wohka Additional Deputy Commissioner K. Mhathung Tsanglao in a notification on December 21, said: “A division has resulted in bringing out separate programmes by two groups for Christmas and New Year at the same church at the same time.”

The Wokha administration banned entry into the Assemblies of God (AG) Church in Wokha Church Colony, citing law and order issues.

Officials said that this might be the first time that a church in Nagaland, where Christians account for more than 90 per cent of the population, has been shut down for maintaining law and order in more than 140 years.

In Meghalaya, besides beautification of churches, Christmas trees with bells and lights have been put up at homes and in streets.

Since early morning, people visited Police Bazar, the hub of Shillong.

Pre-Christmas events that started in Meghalaya since Sunday included distribution of gifts, sweets and other aids.

The state governments in the Northeast have announced holidays for several days.

Churches in Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya play a significant role in the life and culture of their society.

“Christianity is the harbinger of modernity as well as women’s liberation in Mizoram. The Christian missionaries, therefore, are regarded as a symbol of modernisation,” Zosangliana Colney, a church head, told reporters in Aizawl.

 

Chennai, Dec 25 Tamil Nadu on Tuesday celebrated Christmas with religious fervour, traditional gaiety and enthusiasm to mark the birth of Jesus Christ.

Bishops and priests led the faithfuls at the Midnight Mass in cathedrals and churches as bells tolled, signalling the moment of nativity of Christ.

Early morning masses were also conducted in many churches across the state.

People in new clothes thronged at their parishes for special prayers and exchanged greetings and pleasantries.

Christmas trees dotted various shopping malls and hotels across the state. The largest congregation was held at the Santhome Basilica in the city.

Several political leaders including Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, and DMK President M.K. Stalin greeted the people on the occasion.

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