The first Christmas Eve Mass officiated at the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary church drew around 13,000 of the faithful to the church.
The faithful began arriving a couple of hours before the Mass, but the church, which has a capacity of 5,000, couldn’t accommodate all of them. Thousands had to hear the Mass outside.
A large screen was put up at the front of the church so the public could see the Mass being officiated inside.
“Around 13,000 people are here to celebrate the birth of Jesus,” said Fr Tomasito Veneracion, parish priest of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.
Romel Pagcu of the Apex Company said he and his friends couldn’t go near the door of the church or even watch the screen clearly because of the huge crowd in front of them.
“There were so many people, but it’s very understandable because it’s Christmas Eve and this is the only Catholic church here. In the Philippines, churches always offer Christmas Eve Masses in every city, so crowds of people can always be accommodated inside the churches there,” said Pagcu.
After the Mass, people said they went home to celebrate with family and friends.
“We had to hurry home for our Noche Buena,” said Bing Romero, who attended the Mass with her family.
Noche Buena, which is Spanish for Good Night, refers to Christmas Eve. Custom in the Philippines, Spain and Latin America dictates a traditional dinner with the family on this night.
In the Philippines, a Noche Buena usually comes after the entire family has attended the Misa de Gallo or the Christmas Eve Mass. The table would be laden with Filipino delicacies like pancit, roasted chicken, lumpia, rice and adobo, among others, for the main course. Dessert would include bibingka, biko or rice cakes, puto bumbong, leche flan, halo-halo, ice cream and other pastries and cakes.
A number of parishioners missed the Christmas Eve Mass, however, and attended one of the Masses celebrated yesterday.
“We missed the midnight Mass this time, but we attended yesterday evening’s Mass,” said Ruby Hanson. She said she and her family visited their neighbours and distributed Christmas fruitcake and sweets.
“We also received visitors at home,” said Hanson.
Other Christian denominations, like the members of the Kings Revival Church International, on the other hand, celebrated Christmas Eve with friends.
“We had our Christmas Mass last Friday. On Christmas Eve, we gathered at the place of Niroshini and Roydan Thuring, where Christmas goodies like plum cake and pies, among others, were served,” said one member of the church.
Around 150,000 Christians of all denominations live in Doha. More than 90 percent are Catholic workers from the Philippines and other Asian nations.
The Our Lady of the Holy Rosary church is the first of a group of Christian buildings allowed to be built in Doha.
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