Shillong: Christians in Meghalaya on Friday 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.
Bishops and pastors led services and delivered sermons in various cathedrals and churches of different Christian denominations in the capital city, Shillong.
Archbishop of Shillong Archdiocese, Reverend Dominic Jala, presided over the midnight Christmas mass at the Nazareth hospital here and later 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.
All churches, missionary schools and institutions were decorated with colourful buntings and lights.
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.
"Like the previous years, we also celebrated Christmas with our Christian brethren," Central Puja Committee leader, JL 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 there were Christmas carols led by Swami Divyalokananda following by a vivid description of the Birth of Jesus by Swami Vedasarananda - both 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's starting has a link to Christmas Eve as it was on the same 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, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said: "Christmas is the time to remember the ceaseless love and the blessings we received from the gracious Lord, the Lord Saviour Jesus Christ. As we once again celebrate His birthday, may the spirit of love and compassion fill our hearts with everlasting joy and peace."
Meghalaya Governor V. Shanmunganathan said Christmas is an occasion for us to promote the values that Lord Jesus Christ professed and practised for the benefit of humanity.