Covid-19 pandemic cast its shadow on Christmas celebrations in the Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on Friday.
The usual pomp and gaiety was missing as churches saw limited gatherings for midnight mass and Friday morning special prayers. Several churches organised live streaming of mass and carols.
Churches in twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad were tastefully decorated and illuminated on the occasion. Devotees were seen thronging the churches since Thursday night, wearing masks and maintaining social distance.
Churches in other towns of Telangana and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh also witnessed special prayers.
Special prayers in churches since midnight, carols, bursting of fire crackers were the highlights of celebrations.
The festivities began with midnight mass at many churches in Secunderabad, which has a sizeable population of Christians.
SCI Wesley Church in Secunderabad arranged live streaming. Some Churches like Sacred Heart Church in Secunderabad followed staggered timings to break up crowds to ensure physical distancing during the mass. The church organised a separate mass for senior citizens.
Congregation was held at 200-year-old St John’s Church in Secunderabad. Devotees also attended mass at St Mary’s Church, All Saint’s Church, Wesley Church, Holy Trinity Church and Millennium Methodist Church. The priests prayed for peace and highlighted the message of Jesus’ birth.
The Anglo-Indian community in Lalaguda in Secunderabad celebrated Christmas with enthusiasm and in a traditional manner. In Little England, as Lalaguda is known, the community celebrates the festival in their unique style.
Cake and wine making at home is an integral part of the celebrations for the community.
Attired in their best, men, women and children attended the midnight services in specially decorated churches.
Christian families cut the cakes as part of the celebrations and greeted each other on the occasion.
The three-day celebrations also began at the historic Church of South India (CSI) at Medak, about 100 km from here.
Medak Church, the second biggest of its kind in Asia, was constructed between 1914 and 1924. It has been built with granite in the Gothic style with story of Bible painted on its stained glass windows.
The celebrations were also held Khammam, Adilabad and other towns in Telangana. In Andhra Pradesh, the celebrations were held in Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Ongole, Kadapa, Bheemavaram and other towns.
Christmas celebrations were also held at Andhra Pradesh capital Amaravathi. In Prakasam district, pastors conducted special prayers at the century-old historical church Chirala St Louis Marks Lutheran church.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, accompanied by his family members participated in the Christmas celebrations at CSI Church in Pulivendula in Kadapa district. Senior bishops and priests conducted special masses and read out Christmas message.
Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, Chief Ministers K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan and Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy extended greetings to the people.