The feast of joy – Christmas preparations reach fever pitch

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LAHORE – Cecil Jawed is busy shopping around Liberty Market for December 25. She prances around from shop to shop trying to see which dress she would like to wear, or haggle around with shopkeepers who she thinks are charging too much.
Certainly December is a busy and chaotic month for markets. With the wedding season going on, new years approaching and now Christmas just a day away, the market is filled with people. A small hidden stall where export quality clothes hang on racks and shelves is also being visited by many young girls.
“Clothes here are best for any type of occasion or even casual wear,” says Patricia. “I like to pick up my party dressing from this place. It’s not too expensive and it’s trendy too.” Out of markets, Christians from all walks of life are getting ready outside and inside their homes for the big day.
Even though many feel that there has been sadness for many of their brothers and sisters this year, because of several attacks on the Christian community in various areas of Pakistan, celebration is something everyone looks forward to. “We will pray in our hearts for those who have been struck with sadness, and have lost so much,” says a man, resident of Bihar Colony, an area where many Christians live.
“We always have space in our hearts and minds for those who have had a loss. Our prayers are filled with wishes for them as that is what Christmas is about.” Meanwhile, light decorators are also busy filling in their account books, as more and more orders filter in for party and church decorations, as well as Christmas tree lightings.
“Weddings and festivals like Christmas and Diwali make our best months,” says Abdul Hasnain, the manager of a small time decorator business. “Nowadays we are catering a lot to private parties for Christians from Christmas Day onwards till New the Year night.”
“We have a beautiful seven-foot tree at our house, and we’ve had it decorated since December 19,” says Janet D’Souza, excitedly. “This year my brother is getting married so we will have double fun.” Janet explains that like all other years, she will be attending the night mass on Christmas Eve (December 24), where services in both Catholic and Protestant churches will be held for about a couple of hours at night. The services end at exactly twelve o clock, when the new day begins and happy shouts of “Merry Christmas” fill the air.
After the service they go home, or attend parties but the next morning they must collect for the early morning mass once again, dressed in new clothes. Main churches that are visited by Christians are the St Anthony’s church, one of the oldest churches in the history of Lahore. The other is the Cathedral which is also a very large church, but many also attend services in their smaller, local churches.
Churches in Lahore such as The Sacred Heart Cathedral, St Andrew’s, St Josephs, and the Cathedral Church of Resurrection are all 19th century historical buildings, known for their striking, gothic architecture.The insides of all these churches are decorated in picturesque scenes, with paper streamers, and shining and glittering artifacts.
Meanwhile, bakeries, and cafe’s along with restaurants have been decorated all over the city, with pictures of cakes and special Christmas desserts, which can be ordered or bought over the counter. Simple decorations have also enhanced the appearance of these places.
The Christmas tree: It is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Livonia and Germany in the 16th century.
The Christmas tree is traditionally brought into the home and decorated with Christmas lights (originally candles), ornaments, garlands, tinsel, and candy canes during the days around Christmas. An angel or star is placed at the top of the tree, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity.