Thousands attend traditional Christmas Eve services in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Christians celebrate the festive season free of Covid-19 restrictions

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Thousands of worshippers attended midnight Mass services on Christmas Eve in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

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

Services offered people an opportunity to reflect on a challenging 2022, not least the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

There was reason to rejoice, however, as churches also marked the first Christmas without Covid-19 restrictions since 2020.

St Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi put on several extra services to meet demand.

The place of worship is expecting more than 50,000 people this weekend, when more than 25 Masses in numerous languages will be held.

People turned out in force for the church's special outdoor midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

“Everyone wants to come back,” Fr Chito Bartolo, parish priest at St Joseph’s, said.

“Everybody wants to make the celebration as happy as ever.”

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 Shakhbut, 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.

A large crowd also attended festivities at St Mary's Catholic Church in Dubai — the largest church in the emirate, which was established in 1967.

Updated: December 25, 2022, 3:59 AM