Joy to the World: On Christmas, religious ties prove just as strong as blood relations

Members of the clergy spend their days in prayers and celebrating with each other.

Children stand outside the Grace Light Baptist Church in Essa Nagri (Jesus Town) on Christmas Day on Wednesday. PHOTOS: TOOBA MASOOD/EXPRESS & ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: The vow to celibacy taken by the Christian clergy does not leave the possibility for these devotees to enjoy Sorpotel with their spouses or decorate a Christmas tree with their children. Nonetheless, the festivity of the holiday season does not escape them as they break bread with others members of the church and devote themselves wholeheartedly to prayers.

Priests, pastors, nuns and other members of the church do make time for their families but make sure time to spend with each other the most.
People praying during the service at the St Andrew’s Church in Saddar. PHOTOS: TOOBA MASOOD/EXPRESS & ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

“The church becomes our family. We never feel the void of being unmarried and not having children,” said father Anthony Abraz of the St James Parish, Korangi Crossing.

On Wednesday, Karachi wore a festive look as the Christian community celebrated Christmas by attending church, singing carols, exchanging gifts and participating in other holiday events.

Anthony Abraz, who lives at the parish’s residence, celebrates the holiday with his friends from St Anthony’s Parish and planned to go out for biryani. “My new clothes for Christmas were the two new black cassocks which I wore for the services.”

He spent the cold and windy Christmas Eve by visiting different areas in Ibrahim Hyderi and Zia Colony and singing Urdu and Punjabi carols. “We sang hymns to increase the fervour and to make people aware of our religion and traditions. It was great singing the carols and making others sing along with us.”

A Roman Catholic nun, who preferred not to be named, concurred and said that the main focus of the festival for them was the the mass and prayers.

“The mass, especially the one at midnight, and prayers are very important to us.” Sisters at her convent, belonging to the Goan community, cooked special dishes for dinner, which included the meat delicacy, Sorpotel.
Large Christmas decorations were seen all over Mehmoodabad Street No. 9. PHOTOS: TOOBA MASOOD/EXPRESS & ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Those nuns, who don’t have families in Karachi, are also wished and greeted by students from nearby schools. “Our Christmas is spent praying together as well as going out for caroling.”

Father Saleh Diego’s routine on Christmas includes going to the Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum to pay tribute to the founder. “Since Christmas and Jinnah’s birthday fall on the same date, many Christians also go to the Mazaar to celebrate the two occasions.”

Father Diego, who went for a Christmas dinner at his brothers for chargahs and BBQ dishes, said that he got done with prayers at Akhtar Colony’s St Peters Church at 2:30 am where he prayed immensely for peace in the country. “After the mass, I embraced my friends, had coffee with them, slept for a little while and woke up again early for the morning mass.”

On the day after Christmas, a get-together and dinner with priests, archbishops and members of the Karachi Diocese has been planned at the St Patrick’s Cathedral. “The community will celebrate the occasion with one another.

Games have also been planned as part of the fun activities and Archbishop Joseph Coutts will address the people,” he told The Express Tribune.

Even for married pastors, such as Reverend Shahid Sabir, Christmas eve and morning was spent at the Holy Trinity Church when he delivered the mass. In between, however, he made sure to make time to decorate his house, light up a Christmas tree, get new clothes, and spend time with his daughters, family and friends.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2013.


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