Carols, prayers mark Christmas

By Samuel Kutty — MUSCAT: Dec. 24: Various Christian communities in Muscat celebrated Christmas with late evening masses and prayers at different churches and chapels. The celebrations were also marked by night carols, distribution of cakes to neighbours and lighting of candles.
Dressed in their best clothing, men, women and children attended eucharistic services and later exchanged Christmas greetings and gifts.
The manger depicting the birth of Jesus and Christmas trees were set up church premises. Houses were decorated with glowing stars and little Christmas trees installed with tinsel stars, bells and lights.
Pealing of church bells, messages of love, joy and peace marked the celebrations. Prayers were conducted during day time.
Sermons during the Christmas services at different congregations including Orthodox, Jacobite, Marthomites and Anglicans stressed that Christmas is the message of love and peace to the world.
“The message of Christmas is one of love for all people,” advised Fr Raul Ramos during his sermon.
In this world, the message of peace is very useful because people are afraid of so many things today. The message of Christmas is relevant even today to share that joy.
According to Chris Howitz, Anglican Chaplain in Oman, Christmas is a great opportunity to explore similarities and the important differences between the Islamic and Christian faiths.
“It’s a blessing to celebrate Christmas in Oman,” he said.
The expatriate Christian community in Oman has many traditions surrounding Christmas that people have brought from their home countries.
The bamboo and paper ‘parol’ lanterns of the Philippines, the star lanterns of Southern India, or ‘farolito’ paper lanterns of Southern USA, all symbolising both the star the Magi followed and Jesus as the light of the world.
“I am celebrating yet another Christmas here in ‘the land of frankincense’ in the midst of the diverse expatriate Christian community, and alongside my wonderful, welcoming, Muslim friends and neighbours,” he said.