Thousands of worshippers attend Christmas services in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Christians in the Emirates gather to celebrate the festive season and look ahead to the New Year

Worshippers attend Christmas services in UAE

Worshippers attend Christmas services in UAE
Powered by automated translation

Christians across the Emirates filed into churches and stood outside chapels to listen in to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.

Thousands gathered to celebrate the festive season and look ahead to the the New Year.

Services offered people an opportunity to reflect on a challenging 2023, not least the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

President Sheikh Mohamed on Monday sent a message of "peace and wellbeing" to Christians celebrating Christmas across the country and around the world.

He wished residents and their families well in a post on social media.

"To all those celebrating Christmas in the UAE and around the world, I wish you a blessed day. May this occasion usher in peace and wellbeing for you and your loved ones," he wrote on X.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, also shared his warm wishes for those celebrating the holidays.

"Merry Christmas," he wrote on Monday.

About 1,500 people joined together to pray and attend festivities at St Mary's Catholic Church in Dubai on Monday morning.

Families took photos with the nativity scene outside the church, lit candles, sang hymns and prayed together.

The church – which is the largest in the emirate and was established in 1967 – is expecting tens of thousands to attend services over the festive period this week.

Residents also turned out in numbers to pray together at St Joseph's Cathedral in Abu Dhabi on Christmas Eve on Sunday night.

The church hosted a special outdoor midnight Mass where a choir dressed in red and black sang hymns during the ceremony.

Some worshippers lit candles, while others took in the nativity scenes and large decorated Christmas tree.

The place of worship is expecting a huge turnout this week, with more than 23 Masses in numerous languages to be held.

St Joseph's is one of the oldest churches in the Arabian Gulf. The first midnight Mass was held on December 24, 1964, and the church was consecrated the following year. Sheikh Shakbut, Ruler of Abu Dhabi at the time, attended the opening.

Archive photos from the 1960s show the church on the city's Corniche surrounded by nothing but sand, with a cross above the door.

Christmas in the UAE – in pictures

Updated: December 25, 2023, 8:00 AM