Low-key celebrations to mark Christmas along coastal areas

Thiruvananthapuram: Christmas this year will be a sombre affair in the coastal villages of Thiruvananthapuram as the vigil continues for the missing fishermen.

Local church parishes plan to mark the nativity with special prayers and by supporting the families devastated by cyclone Ockhi.

Fr Justin Judin, vicar of Poonthura, the small fishing village which is awaiting the return of more than 30 men, said the parishes have called off various Christmas season-related activities such as sports competitions and carols. ‘’How can we celebrate? Thirty-three men are still missing from Poonthura.

No one has strung any stars and we don’t plan to have Christmas carols,’’ he said on Wednesday. From Poonthura alone 90 men in small boats fitted with outboard engines and 56 others in bigger boats were out fishing when the cyclone struck, he said. As the tragedy turns a month old in a few days’ time, most of them are back home with their families.

The state government had received the cyclone warning on November 30 and, by December 1, rescue operations were in full swing. While the government puts the number of men still missing from Thiruvananthapuram district at below 100, the Catholic Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram claims the number exceeds 200. Men had gone missing from villages in and around Poonthura, Vizhinjam, Puthukurichy, Vettucaud and Valiyathura.

Fr Eugene H Pereira, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, said Archbishop M Soosa Pakiam has convened a meeting of vicars on Thursday to discuss matters related to cyclone Ockhi and the toned-down Christmas celebrations. ‘’When so many families have been affected by the tragedy we feel it is appropriate that the celebrations are, for all intents and purposes, spiritual in nature,’’ Pereira said. In less than a week after Christmas, the tragedy will turn a full month old. To mark the occasion, the archdiocese has announced special prayers and a memorial meeting for the victims on December 29 at the St Joseph’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Palayam.

(New Indian Express)

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