3 days off, decorating trees around UAE: How residents are marking Christmas

We delve into the heartwarming stories of four families, each cherishing their unique celebrations in the Emirates


Waad Barakat

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Published: Mon 25 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 25 Dec 2023, 10:42 PM

From getting three days off work to decorating trees and merging traditions from across cultures, UAE residents are celebrating Christmas in different ways.

In the UAE, a country known for hosting over 200 nationalities, the spirit of Christmas weaves a tapestry of traditions that bring families together in a celebration of love and unity. As the morning of December 25 dawns, we delve into the heartwarming stories of four families, each cherishing their unique Christmas celebrations in the UAE.

'Safest place for my family'

A Ukrainian expat living in the UAE for over 11 years, Margaryta Damilare embraces the country's multiculturalism during the holiday season. Margaryta's family combines Ukrainian and Nigerian traditions for a unique celebration. Their daughter meets Santa Claus and decorates a beautiful Christmas tree with them at different markets in the UAE.

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Margaryta and her family
Margaryta and her family

“I am spending my Christmas in Dubai this year because it feels like the safest place for me and my family," said Margaryta.

On Christmas Day, they eagerly open their gifts, followed by a delightful breakfast at the Bulgari hotel and afternoon tea at Jumeirah Al Qasr. The evening culminates with laughter and joy as they watch their favourite Christmas movies, particularly the beloved Home Alone series.

Touch of home in UAE

Allison Jones, a 33-year-old American expat and stay-at-home mom and content creator, brings a touch of home to her Christmas celebrations in the UAE. Although she doesn't work outside the home, her husband, a professional basketball player at Sharjah Sports Club, is given a rare three-day break, allowing the family to embark on a special trip to explore the wonders of the UAE.

Allison and her family
Allison and her family

“At home in the USA, we typically eat roasted turkey, fried chicken, beef tenderloin, and a huge range of side dishes and desserts at a big family gathering. Since we live abroad, I don’t usually cook. It’s just me and my husband and our kids, so making a huge dinner for just us seems pointless, so we usually go out to a nice dinner on Christmas Eve and brunch or lunch on Christmas Day."

Amidst the excitement, they maintain their cherished tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve, building anticipation for the joyous morning when they open the rest of their presents. As devoted Christians, they also take time to reflect on the true essence of Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Simbang Gabi in Dubai

Rodolfo, a 55-year-old Filipino expat who has worked as a service agent at the airport since 1997, finds solace in the spiritual richness of Simbang Gabi at St. Mary's Church. Despite having to work on Christmas Day, Rodolfo cherishes the traditions of his Filipino heritage. Gathering with his family on the 24th of December, they indulge in a delectable feast called "Noche Buena" and exchange gifts under the glow of the Christmas tree. Lechon belly, Lumpiang Shanghai, Pancit Malabon, and Cassava cake fill their home, creating an atmosphere of joy and togetherness.


Christmas away from family

Ferdinand Fulo Fraga, a 45-year-old Filipino expat working as a PRO in the UAE for almost 17 years, is grateful for the three-day break granted by his considerate boss. Through a heartfelt video chat, Ferdinand sends warm greetings to his wife and daughter back in the Philippines, expressing his love and longing for their presence. As a devout Christian, Ferdinand finds solace in the fellowship of fellow believers. In the evening, he joins his fellow Christians in Dubai for an exchange of gifts and a shared meal, forging a bond of togetherness amidst the expat community.

“Thankful to my Lord for His love & what he has blessed me with,” Ferdinand shared his gratitude with Khaleej Times.

In the UAE, the tapestry of Christmas traditions reflects the diversity and unity that defines the nation. As families from different backgrounds come together to celebrate, the spirit of love, togetherness, and cultural exchange fills the air. No matter where we come from, Christmas is a time to embrace one another, create lasting memories, and spread joy.


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