Abu Dhabi: There is no snow fall yet in the UAE. But the breezy, chilly weather make it quite apt for Christmas celebrations in the country. Homes, shops, malls are decorated with Christmas trees, cribs, bells, lights, and glitter. And Christian expats in the UAE are in high spirits to welcome Christmas, which will be celebrated across the world tomorrow.
Churches across the country will hold special masses on Sunday and Monday and there will be many head priests coming from various parts of the world to lead the special prayers.
Father Babu P. Kulathakal, who recently joined Mar Thoma Church, said Christmas as a festival has a meaning beyond the pomp and show of celebrations. He is new to the UAE and is all praise for the culture of tolerance shown towards other religions.
“On behalf of the church, I extend my warm Christmas wishes to everyone in the UAE. I have heard about the loving people of this land and am grateful to the benevolent rulers of this country. I don’t think any other country gives such religious freedom like the UAE,” he added.
Father Kulathakal said the uniqueness of Christmas celebrations in the UAE can be seen through carol groups, which are led by people of all age groups.
“Usually, you find only youngsters being part of carol groups but here in the UAE, I find people of all ages enthusiastically participating. The spirit seen here is something different and special. Also, the feeling of giving and helping the needy is visible here, more than anywhere else.”
Father Benny Mathew, vicar of St George Orthodox Cathedral, has recently taken charge at Abu Dhabi church and is amazed by the festive spirit seen in the UAE.
“I don’t miss India at all. The festival is celebrated in the same traditional way and with more enthusiasm here in the UAE. Such feeling of togetherness helps to maintain the spiritual equilibrium. Christmas is a festival of love, peace and humanity. And the followers are doing their best to spread this message,” Father Mathew said.
He noted that Bishop Dr Yakob Mar Irenious from India will lead the prayers on Sunday and Monday. The faithful throng the churches from Sunday evening till Monday morning during Christmas.
St Joseph’s Cathedral Abu Dhabi will hold three masses on Sunday and 24 masses in various languages on the Christmas day. The cathedral will also hold an open house on the Christmas day, tomorrow .
“The open house is for all, and especially for those who have no families or friends around. Those with family please come and spend some time with parish community to share your joy. It will be from 12noon to 10pm,” the church said.
The past few evenings in the emirate have seen groups of carol singers visiting houses of the faithful. The carol songs comprising traditional numbers and film songs make for an enjoyable musical departure from the norm. Elders and children led by a church priest chime in together with the others, cheerfully singing along together.
The traditional Father Christmas is the highlight of many of the carol groups. While the church group sings festive songs, Santa Claus goes around giving gifts and sweets, with a jingling bell in hand. Then, the priest leads the evening prayer and delivers a Christmas message.