Hyderabad: So what if you can’t make it to the church this Christmas? You can open your heart’s door for Christ to come stay with you, says Anisha David, who hasn’t skipped Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at St Mary’s Basilica in Secunderabad for the last 26 years. However, things are different this year.

In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, most events leading to Christmas have been scaled down for the safety and well-being of church going families. While some churches have moved their Midnight Mass services on Christmas Eve to open grounds where families can even sit in their cars, some have made seating arrangements in the church following physical distancing norms

For Christmas this year, plans have changed for Eagle Mount Church and their Parent Church Peniel in Kompally. “This year, we skipped visiting homes but arranged dinner parties and people could come in and celebrate,” says pastor Sarat Yellasiri. On Christmas day, the Church will organise elaborate celebrations. People can visit the church but have to reserve their seat in advance.

“We have followed physical distancing guidelines while arranging the space and seating in the church. That’s why our seating capacity is limited and those who missed the registration can watch and celebrate online,” he adds.

While people cannot wait for things to get back to normal, they share that things have certainly improved from Easter. “Due to the prevailing situation, holiday shopping seems difficult,” says Mary Patricia Nithilan, a lecturer in Loyola Academy and who goes to the St Anthony’s Church in Venkatapuram.

“We need to stick to the Covid guidelines and ensure it when it comes to visiting church or our friends and family. We will miss the gathering and especially the savouries made on Christmas Day by our cousins. This Christmas teaches us the importance of family in our lives and how we take a few things for granted. So it’s a lesson for all to be thankful for the gift of life and family,” adds Patricia.

Rev Dr BP Samuel, pastor, Bethel Church in Moula Ali, says all programmes in the church have been cancelled this year except for cake-cutting which will be attended by people only in the age group of 12 to 60 years.

“There is only 30 per cent attendance this year. Sunday School exams, gifting, carols and most programmes in the church have been cancelled so that we can follow Covid-19 guidelines. However, we recently had a modest Christmas celebrations at our church where we had a small service, singing of ‘Silent Night’ and even distributed cake ensuring social distancing guidelines,” he shares.

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