After two years of subdued festivities, Christmas celebrated with fervour across India
The festive spirit started with special midnight masses held in churches, pealing of church bells and singing of carols. Leaving Covid's horrors behind, crowds thronged churches across the country
After two years of muted festivities due to Covid, crowds thronged churches across the country this Christmas on Sunday for special prayers as people celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ.
The festive spirit started with special midnight masses held in churches, pealing of church bells and singing of carols.
In Chhattisgarh, thousands of people assembled at Jashpur's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, ranked as the second largest church in Asia in terms of seating capacity, and other places across the state to celebrate the festival.
The church located in Jashpur's Kunkuri town has the capacity to accommodate nearly 10,000 people.
In capital Raipur and other major cities of the state, churches were decked up with lights and Christmas trees.
In Nagaland, a Christian majority state, homes, public buildings and places were magnificently decorated in the northeastern state while revellers moved around on the eve of Christmas shouting 'Merry Christmas' and clear sky also lit up with fireworks at the stroke of midnight.
Sunday morning the faithful were seen attending special services and also participating in the Christmas feast in churches.
The Yuletide spirit gripped Arunachal Pradesh with prayers for peace and prosperity held across the state on the occasion. In capital Itanagar, churches were decorated with lights and scenes depicting the birth of Jesus.
The Town Baptist Church wore a festive look with people in colourful attire seen making a beeline outside it. The morning rains, however, could not dampen the Christmas spirit among the people.
People from other religions also joined their Christian friends to celebrate the occasion.
In Goa, which has nearly 30 per cent Christian population, locals and tourists welcomed the festival with prayers and midnight masses and held celebrations throughout the night on beaches and other prominent places in the coastal state.
The festivities began at around 11 pm on Saturday in various churches and chapels and continued till the early hours of Sunday.
At midnight, parishioners dressed in formal attire marked the birth of Lord Jesus.
A large number of tourists from the country and abroad have flocked the beach state for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted people on the occasion.
"Merry Christmas! May this special day further the spirit of harmony and joy in our society. We recall the noble thoughts of Lord Christ and the emphasis on serving society," he tweeted.
In Kerala, the Christian community celebrated Christmas with traditional fervour, pomp and enthusiasm with some senior bishops and priests highlighting issues like the plight of fisherfolk at Vizhinjam, the buffer zone and sectarian activities in the state, in their midnight mass.
While Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis led the midnight mass at the St Mary's Cathedral of Syro Malankara Catholic Church in the state capital, Cardinal Mar George Alanchery of Syro Malabar Catholic Church conducted the service in Kochi.
In his Christmas message, Alanchery said if people give in to sectarianism and stay away from each other, "it would harm them only".
He also highlighted the plight of the fisherfolk, who were still living in godowns, despite the Vizhnjam protest seeking, among other demands, their rehabilitation.
"They will be celebrating their Christmas in those godowns this year too," Alanchery said.
Archbishop of the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram, Thomas J Netto, in his Christmas message also referred to the plight of the fisherfolk who had protested at Vizhinjam against the under-construction sea port.
In the national capital, hundreds visited churches with people seeking to find a balance between rituals and precautions.
Colourful lights, Christmas trees, and balloons decked up street corners, markets and public areas as people from all religions and cultures celebrated the festival with food and music.
Christmas this year comes amid a low number of Covid cases in Delhi. However, church-goers exercised caution considering the surge in infections in some countries.
Most churches urged the people to wear masks and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.
"It (crowd) was double the number we witnessed last year. There are no harsher curbs like the previous two years. However, we have urged people to wear masks and maintain social distance considering cases are rising in some countries," a spokesperson of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi said.
In Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar, wearing Santa hats, a group of Muslims on Sunday converged at a church, distributed sweets and exchanged greetings as Christmas was celebrated with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervour.
The members of the miniscule population of Christians in Kashmir thronged the churches for special prayers at many places. The biggest Mass was held at the Holy Family Catholic Church at Maulana Azad Road in Srinagar, where dozens of Christians, assembled to celebrate the festival.
In Madhya Pradesh, people celebrated Christmas with traditional fervour by offering prayers and organising other programmes and firecrackers were also burst at midnight in Mhow town to mark the occasion.
People dressed up as Santa Claus were seen distributing gifts to people, specially children, at many places in the state.
In capital Bhopal, people in large numbers gathered at the Saint Francis of Assisi Cathedral Church located in Jahangirabad area, Assumption Church in Arera Colony and other churches late Saturday night for the midnight masses.
In Gujarat, members of the Christian community offered prayers and attended midnight masses across the state to celebrate the Christmas.
A large number of people came out to greet each other and many visited the homes of their relatives and friends and exchanged gifts as part of the celebrations which began late Saturday night and continued on Sunday.
In Uttar Pradesh, Christmas cheer rang out through the bustling Hazratganj area here as worshippers flocked St. Joseph's Cathedral to take part in the midnight mass and lit candles.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath extended Christmas greetings to the people of the state and appealed to them to take all precautions in view of Covid-19.
In West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attended the midnight prayer and participated in a Christmas carol at St Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata.
The festival could not be held with full fervour in the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this time people did not miss a chance to have a grand celebration.