Christmas cheer resonated across the country as Indians both belonging to the Christian community and others celebrated the festival on Thursday. India has over 24 millions Christians according to the 2001 national census, which is about 2.3 percent of the population.
Christmas was celebrated in Delhi with prayers offered for the country's "well-being" as well as the victims of the Dec 16 Peshawar school attack.
"We prayed for the well-being of the country and also for those innocent children who lost their lives in Peshawar," Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesman Father Savarimuthu Shankar told IANS.
"The celebrations went off very well despite the rapid increase in the number of non-Christians, who visit the churches on Christmas," he said.
Midnight masses were held at various churches across the capital.
In Mumbai, the festive spirit started with Midnight Mass in hundreds of churches. It was accompanied by prayers and singing of carols.
Christian homes were illuminated with fairy lights and a welcoming Christmas tree, including the country's biggest naturally growing Pine Conifer at the home of Douglas Saldanha in Worli, now standing nearly 57-foot tall.
People from all walks of life celebrated Christmas in Kerala, starting their day with the mass and savouring scrumptious meals such as appam with fish molly, beef roast and homemade cakes.
In most Christian homes, people got up early and attended mass. After the customary wine and a piece of cake given by the parish priest, they rushed back home for the Christmas meal.
Christians make up 22 percent of Kerala's 32 million population but celebrations were evident even in non-Christian homes sporting the traditional star and a Christmas tree.
Christmas was also celebrated across northeast India with special prayers, hymns, and mass in churches, besides the traditional spread of delicious food.
Over 5.3 million Christians live in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur while there are a significant number of Christians in the other northeastern states.
Traditional festive spirit was evident everywhere in Mizoram as Aizawl and other places in the state were bathed in decorations and illuminations.
Praise and worship services marked the Christmas and community feasts would be held Thursday and Friday in most of the villages and localities of the urban areas.
The festive spirit also gripped the plains, hills and valleys of Nagaland as Christmas celebrations started with the stroke of midnight when church bells rang, signalling the birth of Jesus Christ.
Churches in Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya play a very active role in the life and culture of the northeastern states.
Meanwhile in Kolkata people ushered in Christmas with the wintry air laden with the aroma of cakes and wines and the lilting sounds of carols.
From the crowded streets dotted with embellished Christmas trees to the traditional celebrations in households, the Yuletide spirit soared across the city with both Christians and non-Christians taking part.
Daylong prayers were held in all the churches since midnight.
Mother House - the global headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa - welcomed hundreds of visitors, who started pouring in since morning.
Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, also ushered in Christmas at midnight with prayers and carols as devotees gathered around a Christmas tree.
The highlights of celebrations in Hyderabad and Secunderabad were special prayers in churches since midnight, carols, and bursting of fire crackers.
The festivities began with midnight mass at many churches in Secunderabad, which has a sizeable population of Christians. A major congregation was held at the 200-year-old St. John's Church in Secunderabad.
In Chennai, midnight masses were held at various churches. Bakeries did brisk business, selling cakes and other goodies.
"We exchanged cakes and other goodies with our neighbours," said C. Mathew, a public sector employee.Suggest a correction