Covid-19: UAE residents choose 'small rituals' to make Christmas special

Photo by Juidin Bernarrd/Khaleej Times
Photo by Juidin Bernarrd/Khaleej Times

Dubai - Residents are looking forward to wishing their loved ones virtually, as social distancing is the new normal in these Covid times.

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A Staff Reporter

Published: Thu 24 Dec 2020, 6:06 PM

Last updated: Fri 25 Dec 2020, 9:15 AM

Many UAE residents are still coming to terms with the new normal as holiday events and gatherings are at odds with usual Christmas celebrations because of the raging Covid-19 pandemic.

Though churches in Sharjah have been given permission to organise Christmas masses while complying with strict social distancing norms this year, most places of worship for devout Christians in Dubai are expected to hold the event online.

St Mary’s Church in Dubai informed its parishioners that permission was given to hold two prayers on Thursday, including one in the morning and another on Christmas Eve.

Similarly, prayers will be held on Christmas Day on Friday while adhering to all necessary precautionary measures to keep the contagion at bay.

Guidelines stipulate that those who plan to attend services at churches must take the RT-PCR test and also follow other safety norms.

“Since we don’t have time to go through all these requirements before December 24, it is decided that we will have only online services, as usual at 6:30 am and 7 pm for Christmas,” said a statement from St Mary’s Church.

UAE residents are looking forward to wishing their loved ones virtually, as social distancing is the new normal in these Covid-19 times.

Christmas celebrations aren’t ‘cancelled’

However, Christmas celebrations have not been ‘cancelled’. Residents are busy choosing ‘small rituals’ over big celebrations to keep the occasion special.

Mary Moussa, a Dubai resident, said, “Our home is tastefully decorated during Christmas by the family members. Usually, we’ve a sumptuous feast prepared by our mother on Christmas Eve following which we ring in the Yuletide spirit by gathering around the Christmas tree for old-fashioned fun and frolic. Perhaps, this is one of the few occasions in a year when I get to reunite with my siblings, who live across the world.”

Sylvia Sarkies, a Dubai resident and an Egyptian national, said: “I celebrate Christmas on January 7 every year, as part of our Coptic faith. I’m in a unique position to enjoy the festival twice every year. A few of my friends and I have gotten into a secret Santa pact this year. We plan to gather under a Christmas tree on December 25 to exchange gifts. On January 7, I’ll be back home in Egypt to celebrate the joyous occasion with my family members.”

She added: “Unfortunately because of the viral outbreak at home, there won’t be a big family gathering this time around. But I’m looking forward to a family reunion for the first time in a long time. This is what makes the occasion all that special.”

Sharan Sunner, a public relations (PR) director from Leeds, the United Kingdom (UK), said, “Usually, I’d go home around this time every year, as I am incredibly close to my family. However, I didn’t want to take the risk this year. I’ve decided to stay in Dubai during Christmas. I’ll be going to a brunch with a friend on Christmas Day. Later, in the evening, I’ll attend a virtual quiz contest with my family in the evening.”

Alexia Lawrence-Jones, Director, Client Services, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at public relations (PR) company headquartered in Manchester, the UK, said: “I was planning on going back home (the UK) for Christmas, but changed my mind. Work was one of the reasons that made me stay back in Dubai. Also, I factored in the possibility of getting stranded after a new strain of mutant SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, was found in the UK last week.”

She added, “It’s definitely going to be a different Christmas. But I’m fortunate enough to have some lovely friends in Dubai, who are looking after me. I’ll be going to Maine at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) on Christmas Day. We’re lucky to be in the UAE that is big on safety measures and some amazing Christmas deals are also on offer.”

No wonder, many UAE residents’ decision to spend their Christmas break in Dubai turned out to be a good deal in the end.

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