Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 25 (PTI): The Christian community in Kerala on Friday celebrated Christmas with traditional fervour and piety rejoicing the birth of Jesus Christ, but all festivities and rituals were performed in compliancewith COVID protocols in the wake of concerns over the spread of the viral infection.
Cutting across age barriers, devotees including children and senior citizens, could be seen wearing masks and cleansing hands with sanitisers before entering church halls for attending special prayers and midnight mass.
Devotees as well as clergy maintained social distancing strictly in a majority of churches and cathedrals.
As church bells tolled signalling the moment of nativity, the devotees congregated for midnight service in churches across the southern state where senior bishops and priests conducted special masses and gave out the Christmas message.
However, the usual vibrant festivities on Christmas eve including mass carols were missing in many places in the state due to the COVID alert.
While Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis led the midnight mass at St Mary's Cathedral of Syro Malankara Catholic Church at Pattam here, Archbishop Soosa Pakiyam led prayers at the St Joseph's Metropolitan Cathedral at Palayam here.
Syro Malabar Catholic Church Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alenchery led the service and gave out the Christmas message at St Mary's Basilica in Ernakulam.
The state's commercial hub Kochi saw a different Christmas celebration this time as a group of devotees rode bicycles from Edappally to Nedumbassery marking the festival occasion.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala were among the dignitaries who greeted the people on the occasion of Christmas.
Khan, in his message, wished people that the festival enriches their lives with joy, prosperity and harmony.
'Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Lord Jesus, conveys the message of peace on Earth and rekindles our faith in compassion, love and forgiveness,' he said.
Churches, homes and commercial establishments were tastefully decorated with stars and cribs depicting the nativity scene.
A variety of cakes beckoned people in different bakeries.
The number of home-makes, who tried a hand in baking and prepared cakes themselves, was comparatively high in the southern state during this festival season.PTI LGKSS PTI PTI