Homes and churches were decked up with festive lights, Christmas trees and wreaths, as the residents across India celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ on Tuesday with traditional gusto. People thronged churches in large numbers to attend midnight mass, and sang Christmas carols and exchanged gifts. Goa Governor Mridula Sinha and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar greeted people of the state on the occasion. Houses across Goa, a former Portuguese colony with a large Christian population, wore a festive look, decorated with beautiful Christmas trees and cribs displaying the birth of Lord Jesus. Midnight masses were held at the famous Immaculate Conception Church in Panaji and other churches which dot the coastal state.
Celebrations will now continue till the New Year in the beach state where thousands of tourists have already arrived and more are expected in the coming days. The governor, in her message, said Lord Jesus gave people the valuable and eternal message of peace, tolerance, compassion, love and sacrifice. She called upon people to rededicate themselves to live together as member of one family and work for greater glory and progress of the nation. The tiny Christian population of Kashmir also celebrated Christmas with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervour as the devotees thronged churches for mass and held special prayers for peace in the valley. The biggest mass in the Valley was held at the Holy Family Catholic Church at Maulana Azad Road in the heart of the city, where hundreds of Christians, including women and children, assembled to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ and held special prayers. Similar prayers were held at other churches in the city, at Saint Joseph’s Church in north Kashmir’s Baramulla, the oldest Catholic Church in Jammu and Kashmir, and at the Church in the tourist resort of Gulmarg.
However, people missed ‘White Christmas’ as snowfall has eluded the lower reaches of the Valley so far. Meanwhile, tourism industry stake-holders felt that the response of Christmas and New Year revellers was tepid this time around as compared to last year due to a number of reasons like higher taxes and expensive hotel stay. Speaking to PTI on Monday, Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) Chairman Savio Messiah told that tourist footfalls were decreasing every year due to heavy taxation that had a cascading effect on boarding expenses. The state tourism department also admitted a slump in hotel occupancies, but said it was hopeful that the tourist footfall will pick up by December 31, as the year 2018 draws to a close.