Mumbai: Churches in the city were filled with thousands of pious worshippers who gathered to usher in Christmas in their best suits and shimmering skirts.

The churches, decorated with stars and fairy lights, wore a welcoming look. Archbishop of Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias conducted the midnight mass at the Holy Name Cathedral in Colaba in south Mumbai.

While some churches started the mass as early as 8.30 p.m., some started it after 10 p.m. and finished by midnight due to restriction on loud speakers.

Children at St Michael's Church in Mahim started with singing of carols. A special tableau showing the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mary was presented that was followed by the mass.

The Gloria Church in Byculla in south Mumbai also had carols followed by the midnight mass. Three special services would be organised on the morning of Christmas.

The Don Bosco Church in Matunga had a lively choir, and thousands of people flocked here to usher in Christmas with gaiety.

'I have been coming here since I was a child. Although I no longer live in this area, I make it a point to attend the midnight miss here,' said Sue Dias, a worshipper.

More than 400 years old, the Our Lady of Egypt Church in suburban Santacruz was all decked up to welcome over 4,000 worshippers who come here every year to attend the midnight mass.

'We generally make arrangements for most of the worshippers to sit during the mass. But there are several others who prefer standing and hence we see a packed ground every year,' said Loy Dias from the church.

Said to be one of the oldest churches in Mumbai, The Lady of Immaculate Conception Church in suburban Borivli saw a whopping 12,000 worshippers this year. The mass here finished by 10 p.m.

'With the ban on loudspeakers, the mass no longer starts at midnight. But I found it a very comfortable time as I will be home sooner and can wake up afresh on Christmas day,' said 62-year-old Ron Pinto, a regular parishioner of the church.

Short readings were undertaken in Konkani and Marathi with hyms sung by the parishioners along with the priests present on the dias.

Christian pockets of Colaba, Byculla, Mazgaon, Mahim, Bandra, Malvani, Orlem, Borivli and Bhayander had practically turned into brightly lit celebration venues. Families were seen greeting each other after the mass.

Mumbai is home to over 11 lakh Christians, of which six lakh are Catholics.

(Agencies)