VIJAYAWADA: Churches, chapels and cathedrals in the city throbbed with intense religious activity on Friday as Christmas was celebrated with devotion and fervour on a grand scale. All the churches witnessed a steady stream of devotees from midnight and all of them spent longer hours through the night singing carols and offering special prayers. Thousands of devotees from different parts of the State gathered on the sprawling premises of Gunadala Matha shrine by Thursday evening, where special prayers were conducted by midnight. Children took the initiative to decorate the cattle shed with balloons and illumination, while the look-alikes of Santa Claus entertained the tiny-tots by distributing chocolates and gifts. Children from the nearby slum areas gathered at the shrine to participate in the celebrations and they returned home with sweets and clothes.
At St. Paul’s Cathedral near Maris Stella College, the Bishop of Vijayawada Diocese Mallavarapu Prakash addressed the devotees after participating in the Holy Mass. He called upon the devotees to maintain restraint and not resort to violence even in the face of provocation. Jesus promoted love and peace in the world and all his devotees must practise his preaching, he said.
Devotees continued to visit the cathedral till late in the night and special prayers were conducted throughout the night. In One Town, Christmas was celebrated with fervour in the age-old churches. People from Guntur district too joined the celebrations at the Tarapet church and the cathedral opposite Mahatma Gandhi Municipal High School. Many people exchanged Christmas cakes, plum cakes and puddings on the premises of the prayer houses and special discourses on Bible were arranged in the churches marking the festival. Most of the shops remained closed because of public holiday, but a few restaurants, eateries, bakeries and sweet shops did brisk business by selling special Christmas cakes. Restaurants were decorated with Christmas stars.
Besides churches, youth organisations too celebrated Christmas in many residential areas on a grand scale. Flexi hoardings with the messages of Jesus Christ and local political leaders were displayed at important junctions and community lunches were organised.
A few organisations conducted poor feeding in Gandhinagar and Kothapet areas on the occasion of the festival.