New Delhi: A festive spirit pervaded the air as decked up churches, midnight masses, resonance of carols and merriment ushered in Christmas across the country on Thursday.
As bells tolled, people thronged churches and cathedrals decorated with twinkling lights for the midnight service to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
People, attired in their best, bonded in prayer and mirth as sparkling Christmas trees and colourful gift items adorned marketplaces which wore a festive look.
It was a busy day for Santa Claus, a man in red with a flowing white beard, who went from place to place cheering the revellers.
Stores stocking Xmas merchandise were inundated with shoppers as exchange of greetings and gifts, community feasts and colourful processions marked the occasion.
Even non-Christians were seen celebrating the festival as long queues were seen outside bakeries to buy cakes and cookies on the occasion.
People used WhatsApp, Facebook and other modern means of communication to send Christmas greetings to their families and loved ones.
Men draped in red and white and dressed as Santa Claus was a common sight, and traditional Christmas carols rendered the air festive with gospel bands enthralling the merry-makers with songs like 'Jingle Bells', 'Oh Holy Night' and 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town'.
Sumptuous feasts, including delicacies like cakes, formed an important part of the celebrations in many homes.
In the national capital, people braved winter chill and congregated at churches and cathedrals amid tight security arrangements to attend the midnight mass rejoicing the birth of Jesus Christ with traditional fervour and gaiety.
In Kerala, agog with festivities for the past few days, churches and homes were tastefully decorated with stars and cribs.
The festive spirit soaked Tamil Nadu where people from several parts of the country thronged the Shrine Basillica of Our Lady of Health at Vailankanni in Nagapattinam district to celebrate Christmas.
The yuletide spirit also swept West Bengal as revellers lined up outside churches and confectioneries.
Nagaland's capital Kohima was decked up for the occasion as buildings and street-corners were illuminated and decorated with Christmas trees, banners and festoons.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the nation on the joyous occasion saying the festival signifies ideals of brotherhood, love and compassion.
Bollywood celebrities including Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Abhishek Bachchan, Ileana D'Cruz, Amrita Rao, Vivek Oberoi among others took to Twitter to wish for peace and happiness to their fans on Christmas.