Presence is the biggest present, says priest
Dubai - Be there for your family and friends.
Of all the presents one can give on Christmas, nothing beats the gift of "presence", a priest said during a special mass on Tuesday.
"You can always send greetings via WhatsApp or prepare presents. But remember that the best gift you can give your loved ones is your presence," said Fr Mathew Kandathil of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali, Dubai, during the Christmas Mass.
Expat Reynaldo Fernandes knew this message by heart. Hence, he flew his entire family from India to Dubai for the festive season.
"To be able to celebrate the day with them was the best gift I had received and could ever ask for," said Fernandes, who attended the Mass with his family.
It took him six years of hard work as an HR practitioner in the UAE to make it happen, he said.
Presence also comes in other forms, according to Fr Mathew, and it often goes hand in hand with another pillar of Christmas - sacrifice.
Divina Tadaya, for an instance, couldn't make it home to celebrate with her family in the Philippines, but she made sure they knew she was there for them.
"They understand the circumstances, why we cannot be together for quite some time. For us here, we strive to provide them with all that we have and everything we can give, just so they can have a happy Christmas," the 58-year-old domestic help told Khaleej Times.
"I couldn't ask for anything more. It is enough for me to see them happy," said Tadaya, who has been working in the country for more than 20 years.
Polish teacher Mariola Cieslile, on the other hand, made a different kind of sacrifice: She spent two days cooking up a feast for her family. Her daughter came over from Poland to be with her and her husband here.
"I made a delicious spread of traditional Polish dishes and sweets for my family. And I think that's the most special gift I have given them," said Cieslile.
As Fr. Mathew went on to share what makes Christmas meaningful, the crowd of families and friends - all in their Sunday best - nodded in agreement.
"Be there for your family and friends. Share your presence with the world, and love one another as God has loved us," he said.