Christmas in Dubai: Residents find cheer, celebrate with friends even when away from home

Thousands of expats in the country that are currently away from their loved ones have found alternate ways to partake in the festive spirit and celebrate Christmas


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sun 25 Dec 2022, 6:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 25 Dec 2022, 7:51 PM

At a time of Christmas cheer, festivities and merriment, there are thousands of people in the UAE who are currently living away from their families, and are either celebrating alone, or with friends who have become family in the country.

Mira Balboa is from the Philippines, and she chose to spend Christmas Eve with friends in her apartment. “Usually if I am home, I would be going to the church every day and spending time with my family,” she said. “For us, the main celebration is on Christmas Eve, which we call Noche Buena, when we have a big meal with our friends.”

Ives (extreme right) with his friends and the family who invited him home
Ives (extreme right) with his friends and the family who invited him home

Early on Christmas eve, Mira spent time video calling her family. “I miss them,” she said. “But I am glad we have the facilities to keep in touch regularly. Towards the evening, a few friends and I got together to have some food and sing karaoke. It is very different from the kind of Christmas I have at home, but I am happy I have some people to celebrate with me here.”

Family away from home

With Christmas falling on a Sunday, several residents took the opportunity to gather together with their friends and family away from home.

Brazilian expat Ives Sacramento spent his first Christmas in Dubai this year after moving to the city just a few months ago. “I miss being home,” he said. “If I was there, I would be with my friends, having coffee and hanging out.”

However, the Jiu Jitsu coach wasn’t alone on Christmas Eve – he spent it with the family of a student and his fellow coaches. “It is the first time I am attending a Christmas dinner in a Filipino household,” he said. “The dishes were new to me, but the general spirit was the same. Sharing, cheerfulness and exchanging gifts. At midnight, everyone hugged each other and wished each other. It felt good to be a part of family so far away from home.”

 Mira with her friends on Christmas eve
Mira with her friends on Christmas eve

Paul usually spends his Christmas at his East London home with his parents and family. However, this year the Briton is in Dubai and having Christmas dinner with his friends.

“A friend of mine and her daughter were cooking,” he said. “She invited about 10 of us, who are all without families in Dubai. It was a very traditional menu with roast turkey and all [the] trimmings. I was really happy to be among people who had essentially become my adopted family in this country.

We even had a secret Santa where we each picked a person’s name. I bought something for the person that I knew they would like. It was different to what I would have done at home – but it was a lot of fun.”


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