Shillong, Dec 25 (IANS) Christians in Meghalaya on Sunday celebrated Christmas with fervour and spirit, exchanging greetings and gifts with friends and relatives.
Hindus also joined in the celebrations in this Christian-dominated northeastern state to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Choir groups were seen singing carols in churches and at public places.
Christmas trees and wreaths adorned almost every household. All the churches, missionary schools and institutions were also decorated with colourful buntings and lights.
Tourists from other states of the country were flocking to the city to participate in the celebrations.
All communities, irrespective of religious faith, joined their Christian brethren to celebrate Christmas enthusiastically.
“Unlike in other parts of India, this is the first time that I am witnessing people, irrespective of religious background, are celebrating Christmas, and Shillong is the place where many should come to learn how to live together,” Sunetra Chakraborty, a tourist from Delhi, said.
All churches, missionary schools and institutions were decorated with colourful buntings and lights.
Bishops and pastors led services and delivered sermons in various cathedrals and churches of different Christian denominations in Shillong capital city.
Archbishop of Shillong Archdiocese, Reverend Dominic Jala presided over the midnight mass at the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians.
In his sermon, Jala appealed to the people to uphold the ideals of universal love and brotherhood.
Hindus also celebrated Christmas in their own way. The Central Puja Committee, the apex body of Hindu religious organisations, organised an event to celebrate Christmas.
“We too celebrated Christmas to mark the arrival of the messenger of peace and love with our Christian brethren in various areas of Meghalaya – Nartiang, Sohra, Byrnihat and Shillong,” Central Puja Committee leader J.L. Das said.
Ramakrishna Mission in Shillong celebrated Christmas in ‘Hindu style’ by chanting Vedic shlokas and offering pujas to Jesus Christ.
Swami Madhurananda Maharaj, who came from Argentina, was the chief speaker on the occasion. He talked about the historic aspect of Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual practices and vision of Lord Jesus.
He said this stands as a testimony to the living presence of the Lord unlike imagined or mythological incarnations.
Earlier, groups sang Christmas carols in various dialects led by Swami Divyalokananda with the inmates of Shillong Ramakrishna Mission.
The offering and vesper service to Lord Jesus was made by other monks and Brahmacharins of Shillong Ramakrishna Mission at its Laitumkhrah premises.
Ramakrishna Mission has a link to Christmas eve as it was on such night in 1886 that Swami Vivekananda led the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and inspired them with a narration of the life of Jesus Christ to take monastic vows.
Exchange of greetings and gifts, visits to relatives, games and sports among children and community feasts marked the celebrations across the state, where over 80 percent of the population is Christian.
Leaders of various political parties also greeted the people on the occasion of Christmas.
Extending his greetings, Governor V. Shanmuganathan said Christmas is the occasion for us to remember the birth of Christ who taught us the the values of love, kindness and compassion.
“As we celebrate this joyous occasion, let us take a moment to count the blessings we have received and to give thanks for all the good things we enjoy. Therefore, let us resolve to honour the spirit of Christmas by treating one another with love and compassion and by sharing and caring with an honest heart,” Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said.