Christmas is that time of the year which is highly awaited by people around the globe. During the holiday season, people travel miles to devote some quality time with their loved ones. The festivity of Christmas begins since the start of December with the decoration of Christmas tree at home, offices, churches, public areas and purchasing gifts for loved ones.
But Christmas 2020 is different from the past years because of the current Covid-19 pandemic, as this deadly disease had already taken so many lives and the figure does not seem to get lower. There have been travel restrictions imposed on flights and church parish are requested to maintain social distancing while for many it becomes impossible to travel and spend time with extended family and friends.
Similarly, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is celebrating Christmas across the province with all the mandatory SOP’s. In a small gathering at Governor House Peshawar, the Christian elders and political leaders celebrated the festive, where Governor Shah Farman was the Chief Guests. After the cake Christmas cake cutting ceremony, he said, “The constitution of Pakistan has given religious freedom to every citizen of the state. People from all faiths have the right to observe their religious occasions as minorities always stood firm for the protection of motherland.”
Moreover, all the mega Christmas events in KP have been called off due to the spread of the virus, therefore, all the big and small churches have celebrated pre-Christmas even at the micro-level with selective people and guests. Different youth groups and other community members along with the religious leader of the Catholic church, Cathedral church, Pentecostal church, Anglican Orthodox church and several other small groups arranged tableau and grocery were distributed amongst the needy people of the community.
Furthermore, on Christmas eve big churches such as St.Michael Catholic church, St.John Cathedral church, All Saints Church, Anglican Orthodox church, St. John Vianney Catholic Church and Assemblies of God church help prayer at midnight to keep the Christmas spirit alive. Whereas, social distancing was maintained along with other precautionary measures. People were requested to wear a mask and not to shake hands while during several religious rituals hand sanitation was made a priority.
However, to control the spread of disease two-morning prayers are held on Christmas Day, keeping in view to accommodate the entire community while taking care of the precautions. “Throughput the year we wait for Christmas to come, but this time the situation is highly discouraging as despite the Sop’s issued by the church people are so afraid that they gathering is less,” a member of the community Robert added while talking to Voice of KP.
While the Catholic Parish priest told VoKP, “We have requested senior people and children to stay home and attend the prayer through live stream whereas, asked community members to come to maintain social distancing, therefore, we allowed a limited number of people to attend the prayer at the church. Because of this, we scheduled extra prayer masses on Christmas eve and Christmas Day with limits on participants.”
“We are not getting panicky and assuming that Christmas is ruined because of the pandemic, we are just thinking how Santa Claus can meet with children as it is difficult to make children understand about the pandemic. Probably, this time the Father of Christmas will meet them on smartphones and IPads or Tablets instead of face to face or at church,” Areel Bhatti a Christian youth leader told VoKP.
The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa facilitated Christian community in celebrating Christmas while made efforts to tighten the security. The security forces have put an end to a major terror attack by raiding a house in Khyber District that was planned to take place on Christmas Day in Peshawar and arrested four militants, including the head of a banned terrorist outfit.
2020 has proven difficult in all aspects, and similar is the case with Christmas celebration this year. Most of the people preferred to stay at home with having fewer visitors and exchanging Christmas cakes and gifts. The global pandemic did not ruin the Christmas season completely. It has taught to cherish the small things in life, be it decorating the home, Christmas tree or unwrapping a gift from a loved one.