LAHORE: Though there is a blanket of stillness surrounding social gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, nothing can break the spirit of Christmas.

Just a trip down any Christian-dominated neighbourhood can reveal the joy that lights up people’s eyes as they take part in festivities on the Christmas eve in Lahore.

In Youhanabad, tucked away in one of the lanes, away from the glitter of the lights and decorations on the road, is John Marcus’s house. It looks like a cramped place from the outside but a warm glow of a twinkling Christmas tree from the corner of their main room makes it look much larger. The room is only big enough for a sofa and a TV but the tree has somehow made its way in the corner and its lights are making the whole house sparkle.

Marcus, 21, is proud to have set it up.

His sister, Sarah, is flaunting her new clothes while getting ready for midnight service. They make for a modest dressing – nothing too expensive as the year has been tough on the family but she says they have managed to prepare for Christmas.

For Parveen, a vegetable seller who lives down the road from the siblings’ house, the budget is even tighter but the celebrations are still on.

“We cannot ignore this all-important day. Celebrate we must, although we cannot be too extravagant. So we have a nice meal and we don’t spend too much on clothes,” she says.

Parveen and her sister-in-law, Alisha, will be spending their Christmas day cooking lunch – pulao and chicken qorma – always a family favourite. The children are all over the place, shouting and laughing in excitement and there is a smile on everyone’s face.

In Maryam Colony, Yasir and his wife, Kiran, went door to door trying to collect donations for decorating the church and its surroundings.

“We did not make too much but managed to gather some for painting and lighting,” says Yasir.

Some of the walls in the area have been especially painted for Christmas. There are paintings of Santa Claus, and wishes of ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy New Year’ splashed across the walls. Other images of the Nativity have also been painted.

The area church is shining and colourful with paper flowers and wreaths adorning the walls. There are even paintings on the walls in the Christian neighbourhoods.

Kiran’s daughter, Rosaline, played an angel and she still could not shake the feeling of pride.

As the second wave of coronavirus strengthens, MNA Shunila Ruth, says all the churches are ensuring SOPs implementation.

Reverend Shehzad Gill, from the National Church of Pakistan of the Raiwind diocese, says the people from his parish are now used to following the SOPs.

After the midnight service, families go home to cut cakes or meet and greet relatives. Though they will stay up late tonight, many of them may also attend the morning service too. They have a very busy day on Christmas.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2020

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