Dubai: As the final countdown to Christmas begins, churches in the UAE are getting all set to mark the festivities and receive hundreds of thousands of devotees for mass services.
At Dubai’s St Mary’s Catholic Church, one of the oldest and most popular churches in the country, J. James, Coordinator, Liturgical Services, said the church is expecting around 10,000 people for the midnight mass alone, besides 7,500-plus people at each service on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
He said the first service on December 24, beginning 3.30pm would be for the benefit of the sick and elderly, while the next regular service will be at 7pm. The midnight service will start with carol singing at 11.15pm, followed by the mass at 12 midnight. The following day, there will be a service every 90 minutes from 5.30am till 10am and again from 3pm to 7.30pm. Services in Arabic will also be provided at 9pm on Christmas eve and 11.30am and 9pm on Christmas Day. There will also be a French service at 5pm on December 24.
James said, “St Mary’s Church is all geared up to cater to the thousands of people who will be converging here. In fact, the celebrations began on December 13 itself, when we had the grand lighting of the giant Christmas tree in the compound. The Filipino community is also marking Simbang Gabi, the nine days of Novena in preparation for Christmas They have two service every day at 4am and 8.30pm. Different communities are also having their own carol singing and get-togethers on the church premises.”
He said the church is working in close coordination with the Community Development Authority, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Police and Road Transport Authority to ensure everything goes smoothly on Tuesday and Wednesday.
According to him special arrangements have been made for parking this year with dedicated slots being earmarked for people of determination at Gate 1. “Parishioners can also use a portion of the adjoining hospital grounds to park their vehicles,” he added.
James urged the public to avoid carrying big and heavy bags. “There could be random checks,” he said.
“More importantly, we request devotees to take care of little children and not let them out of sight. Please also take care of your valuables,” he added.
In Jebel Ali
The churches in Jebel Ali are also Christmas-ready.
Rev Siju C. Philip, Vicar, Mar Thoma Church, said, “We have completed the Christmas carol services are now geared for the Holy Communion on Christmas eve and Christmas Day. We are expecting around 3,000 people for the midnight mass and around 1,000 more at the 6.30am service the next day.”
He said as in the previous years, the authorities would ensure that arrangements for parking and traffic around the churches would be smooth.
He said, “Christmas is the time for giving and unconditional love, values that go in line with the Year of Tolerance. So let us take time and reflect upon these values.”
Father Mathai P.P of the Orthodox Church, which is expecting around 700-800 people for its 7pm service on December 24, agreed.
“The message of Christmas is to live in peace, love and harmony,” he noted.
At the St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi, Chaplain Rev Andrew Thompson said, “During the season of Advent, we have been preparing for Christmas through a number of services where we emphasise hope, joy, peace as themes. We have held Carols in the Desert, a Nativity and Christingle service and a traditional Nine Lessons and Carols Service. For our midnight mass, we will be lighting the interior of the church with hundreds of candle lights to create a special ambience for the telling of the Christmas story.”
He said the midnight mass begins at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve. “We have a family Christmas Communion service at 10am. Parking will be at a premium, so come at least 10 minutes early.”
St Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi has also charted out a programme for the Christmas season which is available on its website. The Christmas vigil begins at 7.15pm on December 24 , followed by an outdoor Christmas mass at 9.30pm and midnight high mass at midnight. The Christmas Day masses, which will be held in different languages, start at 4am.
In Sharjah, St Michael’s Church has also put out details of the Christmas Vigil and Christmas Day masses on its website. While the English vigil starts at 5.30pm on December 24, the next day’s masses begin at 3am (Syro-Malabar), with the last one in Malayalam scheduled at 8.15pm.
Service timings at a glance
St Mary’s Catholic Church, Dubai: December 24, for the sick and elderly 3.30pm; regular service 7pm; carol singing 11.15pm, mass service 12 midnight. December 25: A service every 90 minutes from 5.30am till 10am and again from 3pm to 7.30pm.
The Mar Thoma Church, Dubai: December 24: Christmas Holy Communion service in Malayalam at 8pm; December 25: English service at 6.30am.
The St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Dubai: December 24: 6pm.
The Holy Trinity Church Anglican service: : December 24: 11pm; December 25: 8am, 9.30am and 7.30pm.
St Andrew’s Church, Abu Dhabi: December 24: Midnight mass 11.30am; December 25: 10am
St Joseph’s Cathedral, Abu Dhabi: December 24: Christmas mass 7.30pm, 9.30pm, 12 midnight; December 25: Mass service starts at 4am, will go in in different languages till 8.30 pm
St Michael’s Church, Sharjah: While the English vigil starts at 5.30pm on December 24, the next day’s masses begin at 3am (Syro-Malabar), with the last one in Malayalam scheduled at 8.15pm. (Detailed list of mass timings in the UAE)
- Alex Abraham