Panaji: Thousands of Goans thronged churches and other venues across the State and partook in solemn Mass services at midnight Saturday-Sunday to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ after two years of truncated celebrations forced by the pandemic.
Pealing of bells and at some venues fireworks announced the arrival of Christmas Day and the commemoration of Christ's birth at the stroke of midnight.
The State's Catholic community was led in the celebrations by Cardinal Felipe Neri Ferrao, who was the main celebrant at the midnight mass celebrated in the Se Cathedral at Old Goa.
This year was the first time in three years that Goa's Catholic laity participated in the midnight Christmas Eucharistic services with no restrictions.
The Covid-19 pandemic had the Church authorities cancelling physical religious service altogether in 2020 and last year there were the Covid-19 protocols of social distancing and mask protocols in place.
At many of the midnight Mass venues, services began well before midnight, with the congregation ceremoniously observing tradition and placing the image of child Jesus in the crib amid singing of carols before the actual liturgical mass commenced.
The tradition of holding midnight mass to commemorate the birth of Jesus in the Roman Catholic dates back to the fifth century but got popular and well liked only in the 12th century.
In Goa, for decades it has been a custom among lay Catholics to participate in the religious services and then conduct community celebrations and fun events post the midnight Mass.
This year, however, a recent judgement of the Bombay High Court directing the government to strictly implement the ban on amplified sound post 10 pm had threatened to throw into disarray this tradition of conducting midnight masses as most parishes hold the service outdoors.
However, the church authorities went ahead as usual after the State administration, including Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Environment Minister Nilesh Cabral, assured that the sound verdict and the subsequent mechanism put in place to implement it will not interfere with religious services of Churches and Temples.
Post Christmas celebrations in Goa, which usually extend to New Year's Day and beyond, however many be under a cloud.
Organisers of these events are with their fingers crossed, aware that they may not get the benefit of the authorities turning a Nelson's eye and the sound restrictions may have to be strictly adhered to, forcing them to wind up at 10 pm.
Footnote: This news is reported by The Goan.
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