The country's Christian community, Friday, celebrated its biggest religious festival of the year, Christmas, amid limited celebrations and with an expectation that everything will return to normal coming out of the grips of pandemic.
People of the community hope that the message of peace will prevail among people all over the world, overcoming violence and hatred.
Members of the Christian faith believe that two thousand years ago, on Christmas Day, Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, was born to enlighten the world. Jesus was born in a barn in Bethlehem, Palestine, to Mary, the virgin mother.
This year, the holiday has been different for the country's Christian community as many of its members have lost their near and dear ones in the pandemic.
Religious ceremonies have been observed in accordance with hygiene rules; although three prayers are normally organised every year on this day, this year, there were two.
Christians believe that Jesus came into this world to deliver mankind from sin, untruth and injustice. Based on love, justice, faith in God, and love of one's neighbor, he formed a new human society.
Marking the day, all the churches in the capital were decorated with flowers, colourful balloons, patterned paper, and lace. Garlands of lights hung from the Christmas trees. Makeshift cowsheds were built to symbolise the birth of Christ. Christmas cakes were also served among the celebrations.
Visiting St Mary's Cathedral in Kakrail, Queen's Church in Farmgate, Lord's Church in Mohakhali, Cross Dharmapalli in Lakshmibazar, St Christina Church in Mohammadpur, Mirpur Catholic Church in Mirpur 2, and St Lawrence Church in Kafrul during the day, it was seen that celebrations were limited this year.
Priests said Christians have been discouraged from celebrating Christmas with gatherings. Some formalities have also been cancelled.
On Friday morning, people of all ages joined in special prayers for the New Year in all the churches among adequate security measures.
During the prayers, religious music played and scripture recitation was organised. During the hour-long prayer, the salvation of those who are not by the side in times of joy and end to the misery of those who are poor, sad and sick were sought.
Archbishop Vijay ND Cruz said, "I thank God for sending His only Son, Jesus, our Savior, to this world. He incarnated as a human for our salvation. May the coming of Jesus Christ bring much: hope, health, new life, and joy. Let the world be free from this cruel [novel] coronavirus. Let all untruths, darkness, fear, lies, and oppression be removed. May people gain true happiness and peace."
He said that the negative effects of human consumerism, self-centeredness, selfishness, greed, and indifference are pushing the whole world towards unimaginable danger. In order to stop this, people have to make conscientious decisions. People have to think about the welfare of the people.
Christmas festivities began at Tejgaon Catholic Church on Thursday evening with prayers to remember and mourn the loss of loved ones in the global epidemic. The prayer service was conducted by Father Kamal Koraiya.
"This year has been difficult for us for a variety of reasons," he said in prayer. "We have lost many patriotic personalities along with our relatives. We wish their souls eternal well-being. We pray to God that we may be free from the pandemic that has engulfed the world today, so that we can move freely in the world."
Nirmal Rosario, president of Bangladesh Christian Association, told The Business Standard, "Although we are celebrating the day on a limited scale, spiritually we are as strong as before."
"This year we are praying to the Lord that the whole world will be freed from the grips of the pandemic very soon. Next year, let us celebrate Christmas again in a festive atmosphere. Christmas has been celebrated in 66 churches of Dhaka metropolis," he added.
Meanwhile, Father Bimal Francis Gomez, the priest at Kakrail's St Mary's Cathedral said the novel coronavirus situation had caused some changes in the ceremonies. Special prayers have been offered to keep people free from the virus.
Santa Claus distributes masks and chocolates among children
The elite hotels of the capital were also busy with various arrangements on the occasion of Christmas. Decorated with gingerbread houses, assorted lanterns and Christmas trees, Santa Claus came to the events with gifts to make the children happy.
On Friday morning, Santa Claus distributed gift items like masks and chocolates among the children at Sonargaon Hotel in Kawran Bazar of the capital. At this time, he played with children and also gave them masks. Santa Claus prayed that by God's grace, all dangers will one day cease.
To celebrate the day, elite Christians came to Sonargaon Hotel with their families like every year. However, due to the novel coronavirus, the presence of people at the elite hotel was a bit lower than in previous years. The situation was the same at other hotels also.