Goa set for Christmas celebration with COVID-19 norms in place

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Panaji, Dec 24 (PTI) Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Goa is all set to usher in Christmas festivities from Thursday midnight with beaches already crowded and markets abuzz with last-minute shopping by parishioners.

Churches and chapels in Goa, which comprises about 30 per cent people of Christian faith, are geared up for the midnight masses, to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, while adhering to the standard operating procedures laid down by the state government.

Residents of Nuvem village in South Goa district have put up Christmas stars along the three-km stretch on a national highway connecting capital city Panaji with Margao.

However, post-midnight dances have been cancelled at various places, officials said.

Talking to PTI, Fr Maverick Fernandes of the Goa Church said, 'A midnight mass can at a time have up to 200 people, who will have to maintain physical distance, wear masks and sanitise their hands.' He said all the parishes have been given the liberty to decide the size of crowd for the midnight masses.

Another priest from a church in South Goa said the Christmas mass is an event which no one would like to miss.

'Since the crowd size has to be restricted, the number of masses will have to be increased this year as parishioners would like to attend them,' he said.

'Religious activities are on. But, the dances which used to be held after the midnight mass have been cancelled at various places,' he said.

Markets in the state were seen packed with items used to decorate cribs, depicting the birth of Lord Jesus.

'You will find the same number of cribs this time as last year. The COVID-19 restrictions have not dampened the spirits of people,' claimed Agnelo Gracias, a resident of Nuvem village. PTI RPS GK GK