Bhubaneswar: Christmas celebrations are in full swing in Odisha capital with churches, homes and shopping mall decked up with well-lit Christmas trees, socks and plum cakes to savour in the evening.
However, the cult of celebrations here goes back to 18th century when the first Odia baptist church was established in Cuttack. Since its establishment, the celebrations began and in Bhubaneswar, the Church of Christ was built in 1950. Since then, every year, people gather at the church to pray and sing carols during Christmas sans the familiar trappings.
The pastor at Church of Christ, Bhubaneswar, B N Sathpathy said the celebrations began on December 18. “We have had a week-long celebration with carols and prayers. The Christmas eve celebration extends from 11 pm to 1 am and then, in the morning, we have worship service,” he said.
Being protestants, they do not light candles. “We do not have any image, idols to worship either. Bible asks us to not worship the idols. In fact, we do not worship the book either, we honor and respect and love it but we do not worship it. We give importance to the text in the bible. Worshipping without following it, it makes no sense. We value the words,” he added.
They live by the fundamentals of Christian belief, of the Trion god. “There is one god but three persons- Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus is the son of god and lived with god eternally. To save the sinful mankind, he then incarnated as a human being. He lived on the Earth to take upon himself all the sin and propagate the presence of the Lord,” he added.
Sathpathy said they believe that Jesus is the only person who lived a pure life of no sin. “Mary conceived him, as a virgin. The Holy Spirit told her that she will give birth to Jesus. So, he was born in a shack where many wise men and shepherds witnessed it. Jesus lived a life of purity and took on themselves the sins of human kind, 2018 years ago, and died. He also resurrected after his death proving he is God and then he left for heaven,” he added.
On Christmas, they get together, pray, and enjoy. “We sing several songs describing the Lord and the stories related to him. There was no Santa Claus or Christmas Tree. The tree came up in the 18th century when Europeans planned to celebrate in a unique manner. They built it from wood and decorated it. Then the trend began. Since not many could afford a wooden tree, they took up plants and plastic tree. We do not offer anything to the Lord either. We just come together and pray,” he said.
Even the plum cakes have no significance, he added. “These are all European trends that have become a fad. Also, we sing not only in English but also in Odia. Faith does not have a specific language. We have thousands of songs in Odia, written by our people. One song we sing is ‘Joy to the World’, that has also been translated by Samuel Patro of Cuttack, as ‘Shaanti nei prithibi re’. Our celebration is bilingual- one English and one Odia to cater to all the audience,” he said.
On Christmas, there is English carols and prayers beginning 10 am to 11:30 and in the evening from 3 pm, Odia prayers begin. The Pastor reads out the bible to the worshippers and tells them the story of Christ.
The last supper, dinner that Jesus had with his disciples is called the Lord Supper, one of their ordinances. “He told them then that he will sacrifice his life for the people to help them attain salvation. He was nailed by his own will. He came on this Earth to die and died at the age of 33 and a half. He demonstrated to the people that he is God. Jesus alone is the saviour of mankind, we believe,” he added.