Merry Christmas-Birthday of Jesus Christ was celebrated with religious fervour and gaiety in Jammu region on Monday.
All the churches of the Jammu city and outskirts were fully decorated where the rush of devotees continued from midnight.
The prayer meetings were held in various churches including the St Mary’s Garrison Church Gandhi Nagar, CNI Church Residency Road, St Peter’s Church and all other churches. A large number of devotees including school children participated in the celebrations. The rush of devotees started in churches from last midnight who participated in special prayers and lighting of candles.
The members of Christian community attired in colourful dresses were seen greeting, hugging and conveying Christmas greetings to each other.
Special cakes were cut and sweets were distributed among the devotees. Special prayers were held on the occasion for the peace and prosperity of the State. The head priests gave sermons on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who gave world the message of peace, brotherhood and love.
Christmas was also celebrated in Kashmir with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervour with members of the small population of Christians in the valley thronging churches for Mass as special prayers were held for world peace.
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 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.
“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 Tourism Department had made elaborate arrangements for making the festival grand lighting up lanterns and organizing cultural programmes.
Addressing the gathering of tourists, Secretary Tourism Sarmad Hafeez said the department was organising cultural events and adventure sports activities to entertain tourists and to engage locals.
Hafeez said skiing and snowboarding championships would also be held during the winter season.
He said special New Year celebrations were also being held at Pahalgam to promote Pahalgam also as a winter tourist destination that otherwise is considered to be a summer resort.Hafeez said this year, a snow festival would also be held at Patnitop. 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.
Shah said the officials of the Tourism department would also attend travel and trade fairs to woo more tourists to Kashmir.
The department this week has lined up seminars at Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad in which leading travel agents from across the country and outside have been invited.
The department has already inaugurated skiing and other winter sports activities at Gulmarg.
Attending the Christmas celebrations in Gulmarg, Vice Chancellor Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation, Rafi Ahmad Mir said Gulmarg is one the highest skiing resorts in the world that not only offers skiers powdery slopes but is also a breathtaking place to visit for a tourist.
On Christmas, besides the hotel properties, the Cable Car ‘Gandola’ was also illuminated.