KARACHI: With the country is still reeling from fears of the coronavirus pandemic, the Christian community hope to celebrate Christmas on Saturday (today) with a ‘somewhat’ sense of freedom after two years of confining their celebrations indoors.
“For the last two years there have been problems with regard to worship. We were asked not to physically come to the church to attend Christmas mass,” says Sheryl D’Souza, a Goan Christian woman.
As part of the national policy to control the spread of Covid-19, churches had been strictly following the guidelines issued by the government to ensure safe distance and a complete lockdown of public activities.
City’s Christian community has decorated houses with Christmas trees, displayed big stars in neighbourhoods
Like the churches in the rest of the country, the management of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral had stopped holding the routine masses as well as those on the special occasions like Christmas and Easter for around two years.
With the lockdown no longer in place, the Christian community believes that this year they would be able to hold and enjoy the celebrations in the absence of stricter restrictions.
“We are hearing about the outbreak of a new variant called Omicron, but since there is no lockdown-like situation in the city, we hope we can enjoy the celebrations amid necessary precautions,” says 41-year-old Sheryl, who is buying traditional Goan eatables for Christmas.
Her young daughter, Ashita D’Souza, has bought new clothes and shoes to wear on Christmas Day.
The markets, mostly in the downtown Saddar, are bustling with life as families are out on a shopping spree. Children and women as well as youngsters are seen buying gifts and other items at shops.
As the metropolis is supposed to experience a cold wave in the last week of this month, the winter clothing of different styles and designs and bright colours are in fashion.
During the evening hours, families head to the markets mostly located in Saddar or close to their localities.
Similarly, shops selling colourful glass bangles and henna are also the focus of women.
But, Christmas preparations are not just limited to buying personal belongings. It’s beyond that.
Decorating houses is also considered as important as buying personal belongings.
People are buying Christmas trees, mostly artificial ones, decorated with lights, stockings, buntings, etc.
Since there is no specific species of the tree to be decorated on this annual religious eve, those who chose to have the original one either buy the conifer or cypress. But, of course, this is going to be a hectic exercise of visiting the nurseries to find the trees.
Children are also busy buying gifts to be exchanged with their cousins or friends on the day.
Also, buying Santa Claus dresses is an important part of the shopping.
Bakeries are all set to sell special cakes on the occasion of Christmas. It has become a tradition to either serve the guests with cake or exchange cakes on the eve.
In the surroundings of Empress Market, where mostly the Goan Christians live, the traditional food is ready to be sold at specific shops. Amchem Goa is one such shop located in a street where many arms’ shops are located.
“Sorpotel is a beef curry dish, which is a must on the eve of Christmas at every Goan’s house,” Sheryl told Dawn, as she buys eatables at the Amchem Goa shop along with her young daughter.
“But, cooking sorpotel is not an easy task”, she says, adding: “It takes almost a month to prepare meat and other items to be used in it.”
“This is so tough that I cannot cook the sorpotel at home,” she says, smilingly. “That’s why we have come here to buy it.”
There is a list of the eatables hanging in the shop.
It includes traditional sweets and food including kulkul, chana dosa, Benica, Neuris, Bolinas, Batica, fruit cake, Cheese Straws, Vorahs, roast beef and chorics mas.
The aging saleswoman, who is also a Goan Christian, says it is becoming difficult these days to cook the food since there was a shortage of natural gas in winter.
Decorating the neighbourhoods The largest St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been decorated with a big star hanging above the iron gates.
Big stars have also been displayed in the streets of the Christians’ localities.
Other neighbourhoods including Essa Nagri, Azam Basti, Akhtar Colony, Pahar Ganj, Drigh Road and others are also witnessing the same hustle and bustle of shopping-goers.
A number of Christians, who hail from Punjab, are leaving the metropolis to celebrate Christmas with their families in their cities.
A visit to the Cantonment Railway Station revealed that seats in all the trains running between Sindh and Punjab have already been reserved in advance.
“There is not a single available seat in any of the trains because of Christmas,” a ticket-seller told Dawn. “The seats will be available from Dec 30,” he repeatedly told the crowd.
Some passengers complained that while the Pakistan Railways runs special additional trains on the occasions of of Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha, they should also run additional trains on the eves of Christmas and Easter.
Many said they preferred trains to travel because flights as well as buses were getting behind their scheduled time due to fog or smog in the upcountry.
Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2021