Srinagar: Even the absence of snowfall did not deter the miniscule population of Christians in the valley from celebrating Christmas. The local Christians thronged churches for the ‘Mass’ as special prayers were held for world peace.
Notably, Christmas is celebrated in Kashmir with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervour with members of the majority community taking lead in greeting the small population of Christians in the Valley.
The biggest Mass in the Valley was held at the Holy Family Catholic Church at Maulana Azad Road here, where hundreds of Christians, including women and children, assembled to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ and held special prayers.
The church was decorated with colourful buntings and balloons and it wore a festive look.
Among the believers were tourists from different parts of the country and world who joined the locals on the auspicious day and prayed for world peace and brotherhood.
Similar prayers were held at other churches including the Saint Josephs Church in north Kashmirs Baramulla, the oldest Catholic Church in Jammu and Kashmir and at the Church in the tourist resort of Gulmarg.
“We prayed for peace across the globe, especially in Kashmir on the birth of Jesus,” one of the participants of the Mass held at the Holy Family Catholic church said.
However, people missed White Christmas as there was no snowfall in the Valley.
“We are disappointed that there was no snowfall on Christmas eve. Although we will be able to see snow at Gulmarg, but fresh snowfall on this day adds to the beauty of the festival,” a group of tourists from Delhi said.
The festival celebrations begun in the intervening night of Sunday-Monday with mass prayers in Churches in the Valley especially in Srinagar here, which witnessed the coldest night of the season at minus 4.2.
Besides local devotes, tourists including foreigners as well as the domestic who were on a visit to the Valley were also seen participating in the prayers.
The major gathering was witnessed at BB Cantt church where families of the servicemen and their relatives from the civil population jointly attended the mass prayers.
Similarly, a function was also organized in Deewan Bagh Baramulla, within the premises of the Saint Joseph school.
The Muslims as well as the Hindus were also seen greeting the Christians on this day while a few Muslim NGOs including ‘Who is Hussain (AS)’ had made special arrangements for the Christians on this day.
“We have made special arrangements to convey the message of peace and harmony here,” one of the NGO members said, adding that it is global initiative.
Meanwhile, authorities had made special arrangements of Christmas at world famous ski-resort of Gulmarg.
Various hotels in Gulmarg had made special arrangements for the tourists on this day. “The Christmas special dinner was arranged in the Khyber Hotel on Sunday night,” hoteliers informed.
They said that the bookings from last two days were an all time high. “The tourists from foreign countries as well as the domestic have booked the hotels till the December ending,” they said.
“The Khyber hotel is almost book for the tourists till new year,” one among the officials in the Khyber Hotel said.
Meanwhile, the Christmas Mass was held at St Mary’s Church in Gulmarg while Santac Claus distributed chocolates and sweets among the children as the Tourism department ensured gala Christmas celebrations at ski resort Gulmarg.
According to the officials, the tourist department had made elaborate arrangements for making the festival grand lighting up lanterns and organising cultural programmes.
Addressing the gathering of tourists, most of who were Christians, and locals, Secretary Tourism Sarmad Hafeez said the department was organising cultural events and adventure sports activities to entertain tourists and to engage locals.
He said the cultural programmes would continue throughout the winters and that the local hoteliers had promised all-out support in this endeavor and decided to organise various evening cultural programmes to entertain the tourists.
Director Tourism, Mahmood Ahmad Shah said Gulmarg, being a skiing destination; foreigners across the world come to visit the place.
“We are now stepping up tourism promotion by visiting many cities across the country too for tourism seminars, road shows,” he said.