Christmas celebrated in Kashmir with traditional warmth, gaiety

Christmas in Kashmir valley is not only celebrated by Christian community but even other communities participate in the festivities which points to the syncretic culture and traditions of the state. Akhtar – a retired engineer was at Church lane church — to greet his Christian friends with whom he has grown up .

Akhtar has been visiting the church since his childhood along with his Christian friends. “I used to study in Biscoe School which is a Christian missionary institution, and during school days we used to come here.” He says that he also used to sing hymns and take part in skits on the occasion of Christmas. Akhtar says that he is feeling the childhood memories coming alive today when he visited church.

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Photographs by : Arif Bashir Wani

On this occasion the churches in Srinagar were thronged by people of all religions.

“I strongly believe in  tenets of Christianity though I am a Sikh by religion but the sayings of Jesus are much valuable,” says Surjeet Singh. In these churches people say that they find praying like home in the serene environment of Kashmir.

“The environment is so serene here. Each word your read feels like meditation,” says Mona

The churches in Srinagar were occupied by Christians of all the districts of Kashmir who say distances don’t matter when it comes to religion.

“I am here to pay my obeisance no matter,” says Mona from north Kashmir’s Baramullah district.

One of the biggest gatherings was held at Holy Family Chruch at M.A Road. This church was all decorated crisped with preparations and was visited by people from early morning.

Christians are a minority in Kashmir most of whom are recruited here in different department. Though they are away from home but they feel more at home here.

 “Our Muslim brethren are quite convivial. I must say that Kashmiris are very friendly people,” says Mona.

Christians here have been celebrating Christmas since the very beginning and according to them they have never faced any problem. “We come to pray whatever the situation may be and till now we have never been stopped by anyone, says priest, Veenu Koul.

According to Priest Koul — of Church lane church they enjoy the festival thoroughly.

“There is no difference in celebrating outside the state or in Kashmir,” says Daniel.

These people have been doing the preparation from 10th of December and would continue upto 2nd of January. The preparation includes preparing songs, hymens for the main occasion.

And once the main ceremony is done the small community of Christians goes from one home to another.

“During that time we sing carols, have cake ceremonies and other feasts,” Koul says.

Same preparations have taken place at Baramullah and Gulmarg – which were also attended by tourists.

On this occasion Chief Minister and Governor of the state have expressed their greeting to the people.