Curtailed Christmas in times of Covid

Christmas spirit trumps torrid times

Culture

December 25, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Curtailed Christmas in times of Covid

Churches in Delhi have limited gatherings to 80-90 persons at a time (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

2020 has been overshadowed by a raging pandemic. The world will celebrate a subdued Christmas with limited gatherings and hushed celebrations.

Oliver Cromwell remains a controversial figure for curtailing the Christmas celebrations. The Lord Protector and his Puritan supporters declared Christmas illegal until 1660. COVID-19 has brought Christmas to a similar fate this year.

The churches have been decorated in the usual way. Christmas cribs were decorated as they depict the manger where Jesus was born. But gatherings and Eucharist have been forestalled.

Some parishes held online events to celebrate the run-up to Christmas day. Edlyn Cardoza, a student at Xavier’s College in Mumbai, participated in the online Polka Event held in her parish. “Although carol singing, mass and decorations could not be held to limit the crowd, an online fashion show was one of the events held during the preliminary celebrations.”

The Delhi government did not issue fresh guidelines for Christmas celebrations. So, the churches in the capital city are celebrating under the old COVID guidelines. The Diwali season in Delhi led to a huge surge in active cases in the city, touching 7000-8000 people in a single day. However, in Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray’s government released guidelines for Christmas celebrations, barring crowds of more than 50 persons inside the churches. The new variant of the virus in the UK pushed the MVA government to limit the festivities as the state saw the worst fatalities in the country due to international travel.

Christmas decoration

Manger with baby Jesus is a standard Christmas decoration

Archbishop of the Bombay Diocese Cardinal Oswald Gracias has directed the churches not to hold any gatherings this year due to unfortunate inputs from across the country. However, the churches will livestream their masses on their YouTube or Instagram accounts which the faithful are required to attend.

In Delhi, churches have limited indoor gatherings to 80-90 people, including fathers and assistant fathers, if any. Father Afilash Issac, a priest at Mar Gregorios Orthodox Church, Janakpuri emphasises the need to limit the gatherings inside the church. “We observed the feast of St Thomas last Sunday and allowed only 80-90 members from other prayer groups. Another group will be allowed to participate in the New Year’s service. If we allow everyone, it will amount to 250 people at a time, which is not a good message to the community.”

“St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral at Hauz Khas has a capacity to accommodate 130 people at a time, following the physical distancing norms. However, churches with small accommodation will allow only 40-50 people at a time,” Father Afilash tells Media India Group.

Andrea D’Souza, a Mumbai resident, has planned for a low-key celebration. Her plans for Easter were quashed due to the curfew in Mumbai during April. “My church at Vikhroli, St Joseph, had a mass at 7 and 8:30 am today. They rolled out Google forms to collect information about the attendees and their age and localities. The mass at 8:30 was crowded, so we were asked to plan our visit accordingly.”

People are apprehensive about exchanging sweets this year. Andrea says although she has made chocolates at home, she is not sure if she would give them to her friends and family due to the contagion. “I have bought gifts and packed sweets for my relatives if they fear exchanging homemade desserts.”

The virus has not only dampened the festive spirits, but also the festive sales. Sales during the festive season were unable to resonate with the pre-COVID sales. Stores across the country complained of a 50 pc crash in sales this Christmas.

hamleys-igi-airport-delhi-toy-dealers-hamleys

Hamleys is suffering a 50 pc sale crunch

British toy retailer, Hamleys, has also estimated a 50 pc drop in the Christmas and New Year’s sales. “We are observing all the health protocols at our stores. Our employees wear masks and sanitise the store timely. If customers touch any unwrapped soft toy, it is quarantined. Despite these measures, the crowd is not as bustling as in 2019,” manager of Hamleys store at Vasant Kunj, Delhi tells Media India Group.

However, online sales have peaked this year with people shutting themselves indoors. The manager marks, “People are ordering our products online more than before. We try to make deliveries in the Delhi-NCR region. However, the trend in-store and online sales are similar.”

2020 has reduced the universal feast to a quiet family affair. The jingles of the Christmas bells will be muffled this year. But the universal message of love, peace and harmony still stands tall.

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