Dec. 25: From special prayers at churches to carol singing and merry-making on the streets, food distribution and charity rides to community feasts, Christmas in the Northeast had all the ingredients of a festival that cuts across faiths and ages.
After having been confronted with turbulent and trying periods this year, today was a special occasion for Christian-dominated Meghalaya to spread the message of peace and harmony.
A majority of people had defied the strike called by the HNLC in Shillong on Monday. And, from last night, people belonging to various Christian denominations were seen thronging the churches to take part in prayer services. The illuminated churches reverberated with the sound of music, carols and hymns.
In various localities of Shillong and in the Garo Hills, families and friends visited each other’s residences to exchange greetings and gifts. But the common prayer on everyone’s lips was for peace to prevail as 2014 waits to unfurl.
In Mizoram, celebrations got under way last night but the festivities went hand-in-hand with social causes.
A Coffee Nite, an annual charity event was organised by the Salvation Army at Temple Square in Aizawl last night where home minister R. Lalzirliana was the “father of the night”. “Leading artistes of the state also performed. The proceeds from the event will be given to an orphanage, ENNA IN, run by the Salvation Army in Kolasib district,” said David Lalthanngura Sailo, private secretary to health minister Lal Thanzara.
A day earlier, the Aizawl Thunders, one of the oldest Bullet owners’ club, organised its Christmas Charity Ride, the proceeds of which will also go to the needy.
“Prayers and churches across the state marked the day today while feasting in every locality will start from tomorrow,” Sailo said. Security was beefed across Mizoram to ensure peaceful celebrations.
The mood was no different in neighbouring Assam.
“The morning Mass was attended by thousands, followed by private services at our provincial house and centre in the evening,” said Fr T.O. Jose, parish priest of St Joseph’s Church at Panbazar.
In Sivasagar town, people assembled at the Central Baptist Church for morning prayers, which was followed by a community feast.
In Manipur, people braved the chill to throng churches across the state since early morning.
Deputy chief minister Gaikhangam presided over a Christmas programme at the Congress Bhavan in Imphal in the evening. “I appeal to all communities in Manipur to maintain peace and harmony by following teachings of not only Christians, but also of all religions,” he said.
In Nagaland, special midnight services leading up to the Holy Day were held in all the churches of the Christian state. In the capital, Kohima, midnight Mass was conducted at the cathedral in the main town area, carols were sung followed by special prayers for peace.
In Dimapur, NGOs and churches distributed food and gifts to street children at the railway station.
“Christmas is a time to share love with the poor and needy. The day is best celebrated by feeding those who are poor and cannot afford two meals a day,” said Angeline Sumi, a student.
The Chakhesang Baptist Church, Kohima organised a Mass at Khouchiezie public ground; the Ao Baptist Church held one at Nagaland Baptist Church Convention Hall while the Sumi Baptist Church organised a grand feast on its premises.
A special community feast was organised at Chiechama, a village near the state capital.