New Delhi: Homes decked up with lights and stars, midnight masses, church services, exchanging gifts, carol singing and feasting — India, where Christians constitute 2.3 per cent of the population, Sunday celebrated Christmas with a lot of merrymaking.
People met friends and relatives, visited churches, distributed plum cakes and organised special parties on the festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.
Right from the northeast to the south, India, where Christianity is the third biggest religion, celebrated Christmas with joy and gusto.
“It’s a festival of peace and harmony. People of all religions have come here today,” Father Maria Susai at the Scared Heart Cathedral in the capital said.
“The people feel one with Jesus,” said Father Susai at the 1934-built church.
While for many it was a cozy, small family affair, others went for evening balls and parties where they danced to carols.
Social networking websites were also flooded with Christmas wishes. “Merry Xmas guys…may we all be blessed with peace and contentment..and the happiness to live and love..and be loved,” actress Priyanka Chopra tweeted.
In Mumbai, where over a million Christians reside, special programmes were organised in malls. Cakes in the shape of Christmas trees and Santa were a major hit.
And it was not just the Christian pockets, the whole city was soaked in the festive spirit. “Everyone in our locality comes together to celebrate all festivals,” said Alex D’silva, a resident of suburban Borivli.
In Meghalaya, where over 80 per cent of the population is Christian, bishops and pastors led services and delivered sermons in various cathedrals and churches.
Archbishop of Shillong Archdiocese, Reverend Dominic Jala presided the midnight Christmas mass at the Mary Help of Christian Cathedral and appealed to the people to uphold the ideals of universal love and brotherhood.
In Kerala, where Christians make up 22 per cent of the population, people enjoyed the sumptuous breakfast of ‘appam’ laced with fresh toddy, chicken stew, steamed banana, egg curry, cake and wine at their homes even as hotels, restaurants and bakeries did brisk business.
In Andhra Pradesh, a festive atmosphere prevailed in Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Medak, Visakhapatnam and other towns with bursting of crackers and people of all ages attending the midnight services in churches.
In Little England, as Lalaguda in Secunderabad is known, the Anglo-Indian community celebrated the festival by going house to house, singing merrily all the time.
At the historic Church of South India in Medak, about 100 km from Hyderabad, believers carried a decorated cross into the church and placed it before an artificially-created hut.
In Kolkata, which has over 90,000 Christians, the fashionable Park Street, which for long has been the epicentre of Christmas festivities, and Bow Barracks, the famous heritage address inhabited by Christians and Anglo-Indians, were soaked in festive spirits.
In the national capital, braving the the coldest morning in five years, people from all walks of life reached one of the oldest churches Sacred Heart.
The church organised a daylong public mass and an open air theater with a DJ playing songs.
Olivier Mensah from Togo in Africa missed Christmas back home, but loved the unique mix of cultures in India. “The churches are so grand and beautiful here and so many people of different cultures have come together,” said Mensah.
A 35-ft-high sand image of a huge Santa Claus was created at a beach in Odisha by artist Sudarsan Pattnaik. The sculpture bears a message — “Peace and Prosperity, Health and Happiness”.