New Delhi: Christmas is one holiday which everyone around the world looks forward to. The festival, marking the birth of Jesus Christ, was on Tuesday celebrated with fervour and gaiety everywhere in the world with lakhs of people thronging churches since morning to celebrate the day. Celebrations poured in from parts and parcels of the world amid greetings from leaders of our country, including, President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and several others.
In a tweet, PM Modi said, “Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. We remember the noble teachings of Jesus Christ and recall his efforts towards creating a compassionate and equal society.” Congress President Rahul Gandhi also shared a greeting card on Twitter.
Across Mumbai and Maharashtra, the faithfuls thronged around 200 big and small churches in the city and suburbs. 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 PM 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 at 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.
Following the Midnight Mass festivities, there were big and small private parties. The festival was celebrated 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.
In Tamil Nadu people celebrated Christmas with religious fervour, traditional gaiety and enthusiasm. 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.
A festive spirit marked Christmas celebrations across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh on Tuesday as thousands of people visited churches to offer prayers and did some last-minute shopping.
In Chandigarh, the Sector 19 Cathedral and other churches were beautifully decorated with hundreds of people joining in singing of Christmas carols and offering prayers since Monday evening.
Reports of celebrations also came in from Amritsar, Batala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Patiala and Bathinda, among other places.
Kerala too celebrated Christmas as midnight mass and early morning services saw a host of enthusiastic believers congregating at their parishes.
With the priests pouring a few drops of wine into the mouth and handing over a piece of cake at the end of the services, the nearly four-week lent came to a close.
For all those devout Christians, who undertook the lent, the most important meal of the day was the breakfast, as non-vegetarian dishes returned to the palate after the lent break. The traditional Syrian Christian breakfast included, appom, stew (chicken or mutton) fish molly, duck, beef, egg roast, steamed banana.
In Christian-concentrated areas of central Kerala, where floods created havoc in Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts, some churches conducted Christmas Carol at damaged homes and handed gifts to the residents. Christmas celebrations in Kashmir missed the traditional snowfall this year as an unabated cold wave continued.
Meanwhile, former US president Barack Obama celebrated the season by making a surprise visit as a Santa to Children’s National, a hospital in Washington DC to spread to spread Christmas cheers. Obama said in a tweet, “There’s no better time than the holidays to give back to your community. Yesterday I got to do just that at @ChildrensHealth. As we celebrate the season and look forward to 2019, let’s recommit to doing our part to build a world that is a little more generous, tolerant, and kind.”
The former US president also posted a picture on the social networking site which caught everybody’s attention. Mr Obama has shared a picture of him planting a kiss on his wife, Michelle Obama’s cheeks. While sharing the picture on Twitter, he wrote, “Enjoy the holiday season with the ones you love. Michelle and I wish you a very Merry Christmas!.”
Hillary Clinton also extended her greetings on the festival.
Meanwhile, in the Biblical city of Bethlehem, pilgrims from around the world poured in for the largest Christmas celebrations in years. “Hundreds of locals and foreign visitors milled in Manger Square as bagpipe-playing Palestinian Scouts paraded past a giant Christmas tree. Crowds flooded the Church of the Nativity, venerated as the traditional site of Jesus’s birth, and waited to descend into the ancient grotto,” AP reported.
News agency AP reported Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maaya as saying that “all Bethlehem hotels were fully booked, and the city was preparing to host an “astounding” 10,000 tourists overnight.” The tourism minister further said that they had not seen these many visitors in the city in years, adding, that the 3 million people visited Bethlehem this year.
Pakistani Christians held the Nativity drama on Sunday evening in France Colony which is one of the poor Christian neighbourhoods in Islamabad. “It was bustling with creativity. Families set up miniature creches, and volunteers constructed elaborate life-size tableaux of snowmen, shepherds and stars, illuminated by thousands of tiny bulbs strung amid tree branches,” The Washington Post reported. “Christmas means everything to us,” a government clerk told the news portal. He added that people in the neighbour mostly bring cakes to each other, while laying importance on the message, “Jesus taught love, so hatred should end, among all people and religions.”