Dubai: This will be the second year in a row that the world will be celebrating Christmas under the shadow of the pandemic. And yet, just nothing can dampen the spirit of jolly Dubai residents.
Italian student Claudio Falcioni, 19, told Gulf News: “We plan to keep our traditions alive and have an extended family Christmas meal!”
Health and safety, however, will not be compromised. Falcioni said: “We’re all vaccinated. However, since many of my relatives are elderly, we have all agreed to take PCR tests prior to the event for everyone’s safety. I cherish the opportunity to be able to meet my family, which sadly doesn’t happen often since I became a university student. But I’m grateful to remain healthy and safe — thanks to the UAE’s precautionary measures. I’m very happy now that we have a chance to spend time together, especially this Christmas.”
Fadi Haddadin, 20, a Jordanian university student, will also have Christmas brunch with family.
Feast with family and friends
For British expatriate Kitty Fox-McGregor, “Christmas is all about family and friends”. She said: “I am very lucky to have my parents and family from London with me here this year. We will have a big family lunch on Christmas day at a local restaurant. Then we will take the children out for a long walk on the beach and enjoy the amazing weather.”
Fox-McGregor also expressed her appreciation for the UAE. “I am very grateful for everything I have and to be living here in the UAE, where we are kept safe and are able to enjoy the festive season. I only wish for good health for everyone and a great year ahead,” she added.
Home for Christmas
For Filipino entrepreneur Alvin M. Aliviano, 47, it will be a special time with family. He told Gulf News: “For the past few years, we’ve been celebrating Christmas outside. But this year, we will invite some of our friends to have Christmas dinner with us at our home in Abu Dhabi.
"This will be our last Christmas in Abu Dhabi as we are moving to Ras Al Khaimah next year. We will have a small gathering, but it will surely be full of fun. I wish this will be the last Christmas under the pandemic and I pray for a pandemic-free New Year.”
Christmas at Expo 2020 Dubai
Frederic Rodriguez, 41, chief financial officer at Chef Signature, meanwhile, will take his family to Expo 2020 Dubai. “I’ve heard there are so many exciting events at the Expo and I don’t want to miss this opportunity for my family to enjoy Christmas while exploring the world’s greatest show,” he explained.
“On Christmas Eve, our family will have dinner at home as we will also be celebrating my daughter’s birthday,” Rodriguez added. When asked about his most cherished wish this Christmas, he replied: “I wish to spend Christmas in Manila next year.”
Thankful to be healthy
For Edwin P. Aga, 43, a Filipino mechanical engineer, Christmas is about being grateful for all the blessings his family has received. He said: “The essence of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is the time to reflect that God is full of compassion and forgiveness. I also pray for this pandemic to end soon. May God give us strength to overcome [the pandemic] and keep us healthy and strong.”
As for their family celebration, Aga said he had made hotel reservations and invited close friends.
Church and a 100-year-old recipe
Lizy Thomson and her family will be celebrating mass on Christmas Eve at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali. “We are so grateful to be able to attend mass at the church again.
"This is a true Christmas miracle for us. We will be spending Christmas at home with family and friends while feasting on nice Anglo-Indian Christmas treats that include pot roast, salted meat and a special 100-year-old recipe for stuffing, handed down by my grandfather,” she added.
Thomson continued: “My wish this Christmas is for a COVID-free world. Our children need to be able to look forward to the future without fear and anxiety, but rather with courage and hope.”
PCR test for churchgoers in Abu Dhabi
Meanwhile, St Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi has announced that a PCR test valid for 96 hours is required to attend church services in the emirate this Christmas. The church posted on its website: “According to government regulations, Green Pass with 96-hour PCR [test] is required to attend Christmas masses.” Churchgoers must also present their Emirates ID (or passport, for tourists).
“No booking is required to attend any Christmas mass. Seating at all masses will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The church has limited capacity due to pandemic protocols. Please be charitable and mindful of your fellow worshippers this Christmas. Each person can attend only one mass on either 24th or 25th, in order to give space to as many people as possible,” the statement added.
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No PCR test needed in Dubai
Fr Jozef Timmers, OFM Cap., assistant parish priest at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, however, noted that PCR tests would be necessary only for those attending church services in Abu Dhabi. Showing a negative PCR test report is not required, but proper observance of health protocols is mandatory in Dubai, Fr Timmers noted.
He added that a Christmas Eve prayer service for humanity by the Holy See will be held on December 24 (at 10.30pm) at the Jubilee Stage, Expo 2020 Dubai. There will be singing of carols, to be followed by a Christmas mass streamed live from Bethlehem.