Intro: The Christmas season in India coincides with a national
parliamentary election this year, making for an unusual combination
of Yuletide ceremonies and frenetic electioneering. VOA correspondent
Don Weaver reports from New Delhi.
Text: (music tape) This Tamil language choral group with a Catholic
priest joining in treated New Delhi families to several hours of
door-to-door Christmas carols.
With the media devoting large segments of time and space to the
parliamentary election, the Christmas celebrations were somewhat
muted this year. Last-minute shoppers were disappointed to find
stores closed on Christmas because of the first day of voting. As
one columnist put it, "the joy of Christmas has been leavened
with the elections and their hectic activities."
Another writer said Christmas is in low profile this year, dampened
by the tragedies of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination,
communal clashes and the lethal Union Carbide gas accident at Bhopal,
Christmas is considered by many as a holdover from the days of the
British Raj in this land, which is two-thirds Hindu. But it is observed
as a national holiday In India. The sub-Continent has a missionary
ground of such Christian nations as Portugal and France. There were
towering church figures, like Saint Thomas the Apostle, who according
to tradition preached the Gospel in South India. Another was Saint
Francis Xavier, whose relics are being exhibited in Goa for perhaps
the last time.
This Christmas churches in India maintained the ancient traditions
of joyous Christmas services, nativity scenes, pageants and choral
singing. Lighted paper mache stars were strung up among election
posters in Calcutta. The Young Men's Christian Association hostel
in New Delhi was brightly lighted with large depictions of the Three
Wise Men heading for Bethlehem.
New Delhi television kept spirits up with a presentation of a classic
Christmas film with American actor, Jimmy Stewart, "It's a
President Zail Singh greeted Christians with a special message,
saying Jesus Christ preached universal love and brotherhood two
thousand years ago, which is of even greater relevance today. He
urged the people to follow Christ's teachings of universal love
In Calcutta, Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity had a midnight
mass on Christmas eve and sang nativity hymns. Mother Teresa, visiting
her orphanage in New Delhi, told VOA Christmas is a very happy and
beautiful time of the year.
(tape Mother Teresa)
"It's the coming of the Prince of Peace and it brings joy to
so many lives. So thank God that we have it and thank God that many
people share with us the joy of Christmas. This is the coming of
the Prince of Peace and He has come to give us the good news that
God loves us.
(Tamil music tape)
A Tamil Christmas caroling group joined with Mother Teresa in wishing
all mankind a happy Christmas season.