Christmas celebrated with great zeal in northeast India

AIZAWL / KOHIMA / AGARTALA:

Christmas was celebrated on Monday across the northeastern region of India with special prayers, hymns and masses in churches, besides the traditional mass community feasts and delicious food.

Over 5.3 million Christians live in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur while there is a significant number of them in the other northeastern states of Tripura, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Governors and Chief Ministers of all the seven states have conveyed their warm greetings and best wishes to the people of their respective states on Christmas.

An official release said the Union Home Ministry has issued an advisory to all states to ensure law and order during Christmas in the wake of fringe elements recently threatening some Christian community members against celebrating the festival.

The celebrations began from Sunday night with church services and fellowships where the congregation sang Christmas carols -- both western as well as local songs composed by local spiritualists and composers.

A police officer in Mizoram's capital Aizawl said: "The Christmas eve revelry began on Sunday night and was entirely peaceful. No untoward incident was reported from anywhere in Mizoram."

"Heavy security arrangements have been made in Aizawl and other parts of the state to hold the Christmas party peacefully and as per tradition."

The annual festive spirit was evident everywhere in the capital town and other places of Mizoram as revellers made colourful decorations and illuminations.

Worship services and Christmas and community feasts would be held on Monday and Tuesday in most of the villages and localities of the urban areas of the mountainous state.

In Nagaland, the festive spirit has gripped the plains, hills and valleys of the Christian-dominated state as Christmas celebrations started at the stroke of midnight when church bells rang and midnight mass was held.

Churches, private and government buildings, schools, markets and homes have been decked up and illuminated in Kohima, Dimapur, Mokokchung and a large number of other towns and villages in the state.

People also conveyed greetings and good wishes to one another as Christmas is a time for goodwill, faith and fun.

In Meghalaya, besides beautification of churches, Christmas trees with bells and lights have been put up at homes and in streets. The streets have been illuminated as part of the Christmas celebrations.

Since early morning, people visited Police Bazar, the hub of the shopping place in Shillong, and other markets in the capital city to buy goodies and other items that would enable them to celebrate the occasion.

Various state governments in the region have announced holidays for several days so that the people can take part in Christmas festivities.

Churches in Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya play a very significant role in the life and culture of the society in these northeastern states.

"Christianity is the harbinger of modernity as well as women's liberation in Mizoram. The Christian missionaries, therefore, are regarded as a symbol of modernisation, leading to gradual changes in the conservative attitude of men towards women," Zosangliana Colney, a Church head, told reporters in Aizawl.

In Tripura, Father Paul Puduserry of the Holy Cross College in Agartala said they have been holding the Christmas mass since Sunday night.

"Christmas is a sign of hope and love. Christians have and would pray for Tripura and would strive to bring people closer to each other," he added.

Christians in Manipur are celebrating Christmas with joy and religious fervour unlike last year when they could not celebrate the festival because of the agitation, including road blockade by the United Naga Council over the creation of new districts and death of nine persons in a police crackdown on activists who were protesting against the passing of three bills by the Manipur Assembly in August, 2015.

Tripura, meanwhile, has been supplying power to Mizoram to help the state meet its additional requirement during Christmas.

"In a reciprocal gesture, Tripura government has been supplying 20 MW electricity to Mizoram to help the state to meet their additional power requirements on the occasion of Christmas," Tripura State Electricity Corporation Director (Technical) Mahananda Debbarma told IANS.

He said that during Durga Puja, Mizoram provided electricity to Tripura to meet its additional requirement of power.

Non-Christians are also participating in the celebrations and feasts organised by various Christian organisations.