Dubai: Christian communities across the UAE will observe Easter this Sunday as churches prepare for one of the most well-attended services in the world.
This week marks one of the holiest times of the year for Christians, who believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead on Easter Sunday.
The religious occasion comes after 40 days of fasting, praying and contemplating for many Christians, and is usually celebrated with a feast with family and friends as children participate in egg hunts.
Chocolate bunnies and coloured eggs, often taken as symbols of the celebration to engage children, have already decorated many confectionaries in the country, who are expecting a large number of customers on the day.
To feel the spirit of Easter away from her home country, Syria, Madlen Stanom, a mother of two, said she likes to engage her children in the traditional Easter activity of colouring boiled eggs and buying them new clothes.
“We usually travel back home to celebrate with our relatives and friends, but this year we decided to celebrate here, so we will be attending the Easter sermon on Sunday and then taking the kids out for a lunch party with a few friends,” she said.
Every year, Stanom likes capturing good moments with her children on Easter and uploading them on Facebook as a way to greet others on the occasion and feel closer to the celebrations taking place back home.
Ariel Ahito, 32, from the Philippines, on the other hand, said taking his only child egg hunting in Creek Park has always been on his annual calendar.
“We will start the day with prayers and then a big lunch will be prepared at the church. It’s a glorious day for everyone, which carries the real message of our faith, but I also believe that we should commemorate what Christ has done for us every day and not only on Easter.”
As part of the tradition, Lucy Silveira, an Indian mother of two, said even though her children are not very young, she likes to get cake and huge chocolate Easter egg to share on the occasion.
It is believed that the egg symbolises rebirth and new beginnings. The Easter eggs also symbolise the breaking of the Lenten fast, which precedes the occasion.
“We don’t have that tradition of breaking our fast with a boiled egg but we like to greet each other with Easter eggs as a way to celebrate a renewed life,” said Silveira.
This demand for Easter eggs has turned confectionary shops, like Bake Well in Bur Dubai, into being specialised in the hand-making of Easter eggs by a special craftsman.
Rustom Wadia, managing director of the 26-year-old shop, said the eggs are made of almond paste and sugar and then shaped into beautiful eggs with different bright colours. The bakery also makes pure chocolate eggs, which are then filled with goodies, chocolates and candies for children.
“Our customers have been mostly Indian, European and American. Last year, we sold over 1,000 eggs to customers who love buying them for their children.”
Popular more among the Arabs is Al Baba Sweets, which has become known for selling traditional Lebanese Maamoul with various fillings made for the occasion and also Belgian chocolate Easter eggs.
“On Easter, we sell an average of 350kg of Maamoul and 80kg of chocolate eggs and the numbers keep increasing every year. Customers also make some extra preparations ahead of time for this special occasion so they can celebrate with their relatives and loved ones,” she said.
While many Christian denominations celebrate Easter on March 27, Orthodox churches will be celebrating their Easter on May 1 since they follow a different calendar.
Easter services across the UAE
Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Jebel Ali
Saturday: Malayalam (8pm)
Sunday: English (6.30am)
St Mary’s Catholic Church, Dubai
Saturday: English (3pm, 8pm), French (5pm), Arabic (11pm)
Sunday: English (5.30am, 7am, 8.30am, 10am, 11.30am, 3pm, 4.30pm, 6pm, 7.30pm), Arabic (9pm)
Holy Trinity Church, Dubai
Sunday: (5.30 am, 9.30am, 7.30pm
St Joseph’s Cathedral, Abu Dhabi
Saturday: 7pm, 10pm
Sunday: English (7am, 8.30am, noon, 4.30pm, 5.45pm, 7pm), Malayalam (4am, 8.15pm), Urdu (4.45pm), Tagalog (8.15pm), Arabic (10.30am, 7.15pm)
St Michael’s Church, Sharjah
Saturday: English (4.30pm, 6pm, 10pm, 11.30pm), Syro Malabar (5am) Malayalam (7.30pm), Arabic (10pm)
Sunday: English (5.45am, 7.15am, 8.30am, 5.30pm, 7pm), Syro Malabar (3am, 3pm), Tamil (10am), Konkani (10am), Sinhalese (1pm), Tagalog (7.30pm), Urdu (8.30pm), African (8.30pm) Malayalam (8.30pm)