Spirit of joy in the air for Christian expatriates

Residents say there are a myriad of reasons to rejoice in Christmas, despite difficult circumstances for some

18:05 December 24, 2017
NAT_171224 Marla Ibrahim_DD
NAT_171224 Miryan Hanouch_DD

Dubai: It’s a joyous season for Christian expats in the UAE as they celebrate the most important festival of the year, which marks the birth of Jesus Christ.

For many, regardless of whether their circumstances were good or bad, Christmas is a time to rejoice and reflect on the grace of God.

Gulf News spoke to people from diverse nationalities on how they plan to celebrate the annual occasion. The predominant aspect of Christmas, they said, is the getting together of family and friends and the joy and verve of togetherness with loved ones.

For Miryan Hanouch, a Syrian expat, celebrating Christmas this year will be extra special, as it will be her first time to spend it with her fiance who came all the way from Syria.

“It’s very exciting for both of us to celebrate Christmas together for the first time. We will join a family gathering and then head to a Christmas party along with other people we know from the church. We wish both of our parents were with us, but they are celebrating in Syria,” she said.

Hanouch, who works as a personal assistant, said 2017 has been a successful year for her on many grounds and hopes 2018 will also be the same in bringing her joy and good luck.

Lebanese resident Lourdy Ghorayeb said the ideal setting for a traditional Christmas day at their home involves the exchanging of gifts and family gatherings.

“Before Christmas Eve, we have the gifts-exchange tradition, in which each member would pick a name, and would have to buy him a gift and give it to him on the Christmas Eve. It is a fun game since we try to guess who has picked whose name”.

Ghorayeb expressed the importance of the family dinner in bringing everyone together and said that each family coming over would get food, with the “Turkey” being their main course.

For others, like Filipino expat Joseph Conrad Edpao, who has to celebrate Christmas in the hospital due to his ill daughter, it is all a matter of perspective. The pastor, who is a father of two, said his second daughter, Xaris Mathea, who born less than a month ago, was hospitalised on Saturday night.

“When we were first told that we might spend Christmas here in the hospital, it was a bit disappointing. It’s not the ideal way to celebrate Christmas. But I realised, instead of thinking of ourselves, we’ll think of others. Perhaps there are those who have worse condition or circumstance than ours,” Conrad told Gulf News. “So while we’re here, we’ll focus on others and how we can be a blessing to them since that’s the essence of Christmas — to be a blessing to others just as Christ [was given as a blessing to all mankind].”

Similarly, Marla Ebrahim, an Armenian, said the passing away of a close relative will mean she will have to celebrate Christmas a little different this year.

“It’s a sad time for our family after the loss of our relative a month ago, so we are celebrating quietly this year with a family dinner. We’ve had to put down the Christmas tree and just leave the nativity scene, which represents the birth of Jesus Christ,” said Ebrahim, a designer and videographer.

Earlier this month, Ebrahim said her office organised a Christmas event for all their employees.

“It was fun and allowed us all to bond together and enjoy a secret Santa activity. Apart from that I have visited a couple of Christmas markets with my baby nephew because every child loves the festivities of this season. I hope 2018 will bring good health to everyone around me.”

— With inputs from Falak Mohammad Kassab, intern with Gulf News