Christmas festivities grip nation

New Delhi: A spirit of festivity pervaded across the country as midnight masses, resonance of carols and merriment ushered in Christmas.

As bells tolled, worshipers thronged churches and cathedrals decorated with twinkling lights for the midnight service to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Sparkling Christmas trees and gift items adorned marketplaces that wore a festive look as community feasts, exchange of greetings and colourful processions marked the occasion.

Traditional Christmas carols rendered the air festive with gospel bands enthralling the merry-makers with songs like 'Jingle Bells', 'Oh Holy Night' and 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town'. It was a busy day for Santa Claus, the man in red with a flowing white beard, who went from place to place cheering the revellers.

Delhi tuned to a celebratory note with the yuletide spirit reflecting in tastefully decked up churches and santa caps dotting busy marketplaces across the national capital.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took part in the festivities by visiting the Sacred Heart Cathedral and wishing the people. The festivity imbibed by non-Christians was expressed through greetings on social media as well participating in X-Mas parties thrown on the day. People used WhatsApp, Facebook and other online means of communication to send Christmas greetings to their families and loved ones.

Redemption, rejoicing, feasting and singing marked the occasion in the North-East which has sizeable Christians. Christmas was celebrated throughout Meghalaya with midnight services in churches and tourists and locals exchanging greetings and gifts with friends and relatives.

Meghalaya's capital Shillong was decked up with government and private buildings as well as streets being illuminated and decorated with Christmas trees, banners and festoons. A special programme for the hearing-impaired believers was organised in one of the oldest churches in Shillong at Police Bazaar.

While in the Garo Hills region Christmas celebration and preparation for the New Year were going on, Tura town was illuminated with different coloured lights.

In Nagaland, believers offered prayers for peace and unity in the Naga society. The rural areas too were illuminated with decorations for the festive season to culminate on the New Year.

Midnight masses across all churches in Goa marked the commencement of Christmas celebrations in the state, where one-third of the population is from Catholic faith. Streets leading to the coastal villages were jammed with the vehicles as tourist inflow is also on rise for Christmas and New Year.

While tourists were busy partying on the beaches, the local people were seen attending midnight masses, followed by Christmas celebrations in their parish. Traditional dance parties were also organised at various places.

Cribs indicating the life of Lord Jesus were set up all across the state in front of the houses. "The biggest crib you will find at Velsao (a beach village 45 kms away from Panaji). Youths are busy getting crib sets of every size. A few of them have a touch of innovation," said John Rodrigues, a parishioner with Mary Immaculate Conception Church, Panaji.

Keralites celebrated Christmas with traditional fervour and piety rejoicing the birth of Jesus Christ with the faithful thronging churches for special prayers and midnight mass. Churches, homes and commercial establishments were tastefully decorated with stars and cribs depicting the nativity scene.

The state, where Christians account for nearly one-fourth of the population, has been in the grip of festive mood for the past several days. Carol groups of churches and art clubs have been busy visiting houses singing traditional Christmas songs.

In Tamil Nadu, the faithful thronged popular churches across the state, including at Santhome in Chennai and Vailakanni in Nagappatinam district for prayers and midnight masses.

At Kanyakumari, a section of fishermen celebrated Christmas mid-sea on boats. Such a celebration was held to recognise the sea's importance in ensuring them their livelihood. Homes were decorated with stars and Christmas trees.

Yuletide spirit gripped Kolkata with Christmas carols, midnight masses, illuminated churches, light and sound exhibitions, festoons and delectable food marking the day.

Government and private buildings of the city, which was once the capital of British India, were illuminated too for the occasion, known as 'Boro Din'.

Downtown Park Street, where a Christmas carnival is being hosted by the state government, attracted huge crowds from all communities. Allen Park in the area is hosting a unique programme comprising music -- both carols and the feet-stomping variety and food, specially bakery products -- through Christmas to New Year.

Revellers also jammed since last night Bow Barracks and flocked to St John's Church, Bethel Church, Trinity Church and other places which were decked up with lights, myriad hued balloons and nativity scenes.

The iconic Nahoum's confectionery at New Market saw hundreds of people stand patiently in log queues outside it since yesterday for its trademark plum and rich fruit cakes. Christmas was celebrated with fervour at the famous Bandel Church on the banks of Hooghly river and Catholic Church at Kalimpong. Bandel Church, founded in 1599, is the oldest church in eastern India and was declared a mini Basilica by Pope John Paul II.

The church is holding its biggest Christmas celebration in 20 years with the setting up of 'The Stations of The Cross' that will depict Christ's crucifixion.

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