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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - People who came for Christmas Vigil Mass at St Michaels Catholic Church taking photos with friends in Sharjah on Christmas Eve in the UAE.- Photo by M.Sajjad
The spirit of Christmas in the UAE has always been about love and tolerance.
The UAE is enveloped in the Christmas spirit. Choirs are singing carols, bells are ringing and churchgoers humming or singing joyous hymns such as 'O Come, All Ye Faithful', 'Silent Night' and 'Joy to the World'.
On Christmas Eve, thousands of Christian expats trooped to various churches - from St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Abu Dhabi, to St. Mary's Catholic Church, Dubai; St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Jebel Ali; St. Michael's Catholic Church in Sharjah and other churches across the country.
Mass services are held in various languages, including Arabic, English, Filipino, French, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Urdu, Hindi, Sinhalese, Malayalam, Konkani, Sri Lankan, Tami, Korean and African.
This is a testament that Christmas in the UAE is a symbol of tolerance. It is also a time of compassion, giving, sharing and connecting with family and friends.
"The spirit of Christmas in the UAE has always been about love and tolerance. There are only a few mega cities in the world where one can see a Catholic church holding mass services while the minaret from a nearby mosque is calling the faithful for Azan (prayers)," Matilyn Bagunu, conductor and director at St Mary's Catholic Church choir, told Al Khaleej Today.
"We are blessed that here in the UAE, we can freely express our faith and there are places of worship that the UAE Government has given us," added Christopher Edralin, another churchgoer at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Oud Metha, where around 25,000 Filipinos attended the nine-day Simbang Gabi which started on December 15.
"Simbang Gabi is a unique Filipino traditional that we were able to bring here in Dubai. It's devotional nine-day mass held at early dawn or night leading up to Christmas and we have brought a part of our home in the UAE," added Edralin.
Christmas is made even more special in the UAE as the multi-cultural country is united in celebrating a festival with all its spirituality and gaiety.
Roughly 10 per cent or one million of the country's population are Christians, with majority being Catholics from the Philippines, India and African and Arab nations. There are also numerous Orthodox or Eastern Christian churches and religious denominations in the UAE.
Brightly lit Christmas trees, wreaths, glowing fairy lights and other colourful decorations decked the halls as well-wishers exchanged gifts and greetings. And the festivities are made complete with traditional Christmas meals, all-you-can eat buffets and festive servings of food at home.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
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