Music, Carols and Togetherness Marks Christmas Celebrations all cross India’s NE
Sounds of church bells, Christmas carolling and bonfires with youths sitting around and strumming the guitar strings and humming Steve Wonder’s popular song “someday at Christmas,” and the popular Christmas song, jingle bells at various locales braving the wintry chill would be the closest to a picture-perfect description of the mood at this time of the year in most part of India’s North East states. For the first timer visitor, “this is but paradise, something you cannot find anywhere else,” and for many others that study and work outside it’s a home coming ever so nostalgic.
Simply put, it’s Christmas time and all over North East, everyone cutting across all religious groups wait patiently to join the celebrations without any prejudice. Even the services at various churches which no doubt has more believers and followers of the Christian faith, yet it also attracts many others from different religions in large numbers to be part of either the midnight mass on December 24 or a service the day after.
The emotion is palpable among those who are returning home after a gap of a few years. This as they witnessed the “same fervor and bonhomie” among different communities at different places. “It is was really pleasing to see people from other faiths joining in Christmas carols with their own musical instruments,” said Benjamin, who was on a visit Dawki on Saturday with a friend from Delhi.” Similar experiences were narrated by people from other cities like Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Aizawl and Dimapur.
The state authorities of the different states ensured that at every layer of governance, upto to the sub-division and village level, people could celebrate the festival peacefully and with a sense of belonging. The celebrations and the way people rejoice together in these parts and also all over India assumes great significance especially as it continues to challenge narratives and fear of a systematic persecution of religious minorities.
Reactions from a cross section of people helps to put the celebrations in the right perspective. Editor of the Meghalaya Monitor, E M Jose is of the opinion that “during Christmas time people come together and there are no problems.” “Small issues that may exist is overcome and that’s how it should be,” he added. “It was a fearless celebration,” exhorted Riewad Vicharwant Warjri (Rudy Warjri), former Ambassador of India Peru, High Commissioner to the Sultanate of Brunei & Ambassador to Colombia and worked in different diplomatic capacities abroad in Nairobi, Budapest, Colombo and New York.
Nilesh Ekka, a resident of Delhi is of the opinion that everything is fine despite the cold weather, which has led to a slightly low-key atmosphere. However, he noted that the fact that people are still enjoying events like the North East festival indicates that there is a celebratory mood in country’s capital city.
In the different states in the region, like Mizoram for instance, most cities and villages are turned musical with Christmas carols in every locality from December 22. “On the night of Christmas eve, we call it Urlawk zan, we went to church, followed by praise and worship. I liked it as others from different religious groups also joined us to gather around the bonfire singing gospel music,” said Lalremruati (25) from Lunglei in Mizoram.
Further, dressed in their best on December 25 most people went to church and attended the Christmas service. The highlight though was the high tea and community meal where people from different groups mix and intermingle with families who have come home after a long time.
In Imphal town, Christians who are mostly tribals celebrated with friends and family. Marina an outstation researcher who was visiting this part of the country for the first time had a delightful time as she witnessed “warmth and a strong boding between people from various backgrounds.”
“In Imphal I saw people from different groups attend night services and waited for Christmas together, singing Christmas songs,” she added. For her and many others like Eloni K (28) of Imphal, “Christmas celebration is about togetherness, feasting, going for picnic, more like a family get together during the holiday season.”
Spending Christmas anywhere in North east India is always special, particular so for people many of us who have grown up in the region. The bonding with the indigenous community and with cities like Shillong, Aizawl, Guwahati, Kohima and even Dimapur makes it that much more emotive and a part of one’s life even though it cuts across various religious and ethnic spread.
There can be no better way to describe this togetherness, which incidentally is also seen in many other states of India is the Bethlehem star hanging outside every house with Christmas trees of all varied sizes and shapes.
We went for midnight mass and felt really nice to see how people celebrate Christmas here. People from other faith extend their best wishes and participate in prayer services and other religious prayers as well. It is encouraging how the government leaders have been extending wishes and also welcoming people to visit their state during the Christmas festival which is like a winter festival.
Finally, what best sums up the “Indian or our way of celebrating Christmas,” is what Benjamin said, in that, “I have not seen this anywhere else in many parts of Asia where I spend time working. This actually reminded of my time spent on the streets of Vienna where everyone is enjoying and no one is discriminated.”