ISLAMABAD: There is a festive mood in Islamabad.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,” sings Rimsha Kausar, as she decorates her Christmas tree with fairy lights, baubles and tinsel. She loves her red knitted sweater with its cheery Nordic reindeer.
“I am so happy today. I can’t wait to visit everyone and give them their presents. We’ll have a small barbeque at home in the evening. I am very excited to show off my Christmas decorations,” Rimsha told Xinhua.
For the 12-year-old girl, Christmas is a very special time of year when she gets to go on a shopping spree, buying new dresses, shoes and gifts, not for herself only, but for her friends and family as well.
Although Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country, small Christian communities there celebrate the Christmas season as joyously as anywhere else.
“We share the happiness of the occasion with everyone, regardless of their faith,” said Arshad Wilson after saying his prayers at a church in Rawalpindi.
“The festive feeling is everywhere. We see happiness everywhere in the faces of the people, brightly-lit trees, and decoration in streets, houses and churches. The markets are buzzing with shoppers. The nation is in a celebratory mood. The winter cheer raises everyone’s spirits,” he told Xinhua.
Wilson explained how his Muslim colleagues had hosted a Christmas dinner for his family and sent gifts and cake. “The love and warmth of my co-workers filled my heart with real joy,” he said.
Extending seasonal greetings to the Christian community, Prime Minister Imran Khan said service rendered by Christians in the fields of defence, education, health and the economy have always been invaluable.
“The festivities of Christmas teach us universal love, brotherhood, tolerance and self-sacrifice which play a pivotal role in moving any society on the path of development,” Khan said in his Christmas message on Saturday.
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the nerve centre of Covid-19 response, has issued guidelines on mass events in an attempt to mitigate any potential disruption to the pandemic response.
Indoor gatherings must be well-ventilated and guest lists should be kept short. Only vaccinated individuals may attend congregations and gatherings, and masks are mandatory at all Christmas events which must be socially distanced.
Muhammad Israr Madani, president of the International Research Council for Religious Affairs, an Islamabad-based NGO, said festivals, whether social, cultural or religious, help to build tranquillity, unity and harmony in any community.
“We should use every opportunity to rejoice on these special occasions and spread the message of peace and interfaith harmony,” he said.
In a nation all too frequently still subject to acts of terrorism, law enforcement agencies have stepped up security at churches, mass gatherings and public places to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all in the season of goodwill.
Christians in Pakistan have a two-day holiday on Saturday and Sunday. Concerts, peace rallies and festivals are being held across the country, with special trains laid on to help people celebrate with their loved ones.