Christmas in UAE: Singles watch out for each other in scaled-back celebrations

Dubai - Desert barbeques and virtual mass celebrations are just some of the plans in the pipeline

By James Jose

Published: Thu 24 Dec 2020, 7:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Dec 2020, 7:16 PM

As Christian families in the UAE prepare to celebrate Christmas in a quieter way this year owing to Covid-19 pandemic, many singles in the country have also revealed plans to mark the occasion in a safe, socially-distanced way.

Filipina Via Imperial, who celebrated her 38th birthday on Thursday, will usher in Christmas by attending mass at church and then meeting up with friends in small groups, as well as virtually.

“Here, in the UAE, we are really privileged to practise our faith,” said Via, who works as an HR administrator for a courier and logistics firm. "It is not the usual celebrations because of the pandemic and restrictions need to be followed. But the good thing is you try to be creative by making sure you are with friends and trying to still experience the spirit of Christmas.”

Also read: How the world is preparing to spend Christmas this year

Via, who hails from the Philippines capital of Manila, has travelled home for Christmas for the past three years. This time, however, she will be spending the season in Dubai.

“I normally go back home to the Philippines during Christmas but, this year, it is not really possible. Still, it's a different experience to celebrate it here with friends. I’m active with the church, so we will be doing activities virtually to make sure we support each other — especially since most of us are single and don’t have families here,” Via said.

About her plans, she said: “Since we cannot have large gatherings, we are trying to make it more intimate by just having two or three people at a time and making sure that we follow all the precautions."

Via revealed that she plans to visit churches in nearby emirates for a change. "I got to Ras Al Khaimah in the morning and, on Friday morning, we are planning to go to St. Mary’s Church in Sharjah. It kind of gives that different feeling about being more accountable with each other because anything can happen. So, you have to be very, very careful. We are being more responsible and sensitive to people's health conditions, and making sure we protect each other.

“We are also trying to meet our friends virtually as much as we can and pray for each other’s health and the families back home," she added. "It will be more personal.”

Meanwhile, Indian expat Herman Oliveiro, a 37-year-old sales and marketing executive, will miss the midnight mass at St. Mary’s Church in Oud Metha, which he religiously attended every year.

“I go for the midnight mass, pray that next year will be very successful and peaceful. But this time, there is no church because it is closed. So, it will just be about gathering along with a few friends. Maybe, we'll go to the desert and do some barbecue,” said Herman.

“Normally, we gather around a Christmas tree and sing carols with Santa Claus distributing Christmas sweets. It will be strange but it won’t break my spirit of Christmas. Someone just might dress up like Santa and go around distributing sweets,” he said.

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