N-E India celebrates Christmas with great enthusiasm



Christmas was celebrated across northeast India on Wednesday with special prayers, hymns and mass in churches, besides the traditional community feasts.

Over 5.5 million Christians live in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur while there are a significant number of Christians in the other northeastern states of Tripura, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

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

Police authorities in all the states have made extensive security arrangements to prevent any untoward incidents during the festivities. The authorities in some of the northeastern states were extra careful in view of the recent protests against the new Citizenship Act.

The celebrations began earlier this week and gathered momentum from Tuesday night with church services where the congregation sang Christmas carols -- both western as well as local songs composed by local spiritualists and composers.

According to district administration and police officials in Mizoram's capital Aizawl the Christmas-eve revelry was entirely peaceful. No unpleasant incident was reported from anywhere in Mizoram. The Mizoram government led by the Mizo National Front in March this year enacted a new act banning the consumption of liquor.

"Huge security arrangements have been put in place in Aizawl and other parts of the state to celebrate Christmas peacefully and as per tradition," a senior police official said.

According to the police official, joint coordination committees were formed in all the 11 districts with the police officials, excise and narcotics departments to check the use of alcohol and drugs.

Strict vigil is being maintained at the entry points along the borders with Assam, Tripura and Myanmar.

The annual festive spirit was evident everywhere in the capital town and other places in Mizoram as revellers made colourful decorations and illuminations. Church services and Christmas and community feasts are being held on Tuesday and Wednesday in most of the villages and urban areas of the mountainous state.

This time Mizoram is witnessing the 149th year of Christmas celebrations after it was first celebrated by the colonial British troops back in 1871.

In Meghalaya, local NGOs are celebrating Christmas with underprivileged children including slum kids, child labourers, rag pickers, domestic helpers, physically challenged children and other distressed children from the East Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi district.

The pre-Christmas celebrations began earlier this week. People of different communities were seen in the markets, shops and shopping malls in different parts of the state buying essential items including Christmas goodies and gifts. In some localities, various organisations held events with the people invited to collect their Christmas presents from Santa Claus who pulled out colourfully wrapped gift boxes from cardboard boxes kept nearby.

Besides the beautification of churches, Christmas trees with bells and lights have been put up at homes and in streets. Most of the streets have been illuminated.

In Nagaland, Christmas and New Year celebrations began a few days back in line with tradition.

Various Churches presented Christmas pageants consisting of songs, stage plays and the message about the birth of Christ and the importance of Christmas. Nagas, an indigenous people stretched across several states in the northeast and also in Myanmar, are predominantly Christians.

Churches in Nagaland, where Christians account for more than 90 per cent of the population, have been holding a variety of week-long programmes since Christianity took root in the state more than 140 years ago.

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 people in these 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, teachers at the Holy Cross College in Agartala said they have been holding Christmas mass since Tuesday night. Christians in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh are celebrating Christmas with joy and religious fervour.

Prayers are being held in Churches spread across these states. Churches, houses and various other institutions have been decorated with lights and stars while the people greeted each other on the occasion.

Non-Christians also participate in the celebrations and feasts organised by various Christian organisations in the northeastern region.IANS