(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The Capital has celebrated Christmas in style this year, with just about every corner of the city decorated with opulent lighting, enormous luscious trees, and even snow, which many expats said: "Feels like back home."
Crowds flocked to the 'Winter Fair' on Al Maryah Island waterfront promenade on the days leading up to Christmas and even on Christmas.
The month-long fair included a spectacular 'snow' play area, a reindeer rodeo and a train ride, which caught the fancy of many children, while the live music and dance entertained families, and the scent of freshly popped popcorn with hot cocoa being filled the air.
Live entertainment featuring roaming performances, marching bands and live stage shows also filled the promenade, while Christmas music and spectacular decorations, including coloured lights and an enormous LED sculpture of Santa's sleigh and his reindeer set on the promenade, immersed visitors in the holiday spirit.
A similar Christmas fair was also held at Beach Rotana, the 'Swiss Market'. The lively festive spirit could be felt all around, as families enjoyed hot snacks and treats served at the stands on the garden, which also offered unique crafts.
Yas Island transformed itself into the festive spirit with the enchanting dreamland that features a snow park and ice slide, at this year's 'Winterland Carnival' at the du Forum, 'Let it Snow' at Yas Marina, and 'Winterfest' at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
Joanne Rico, 35, Filipina marketer, told Khaleej Times that although she is celebrating Christmas away from her family in Manila this year, the way Abu Dhabi celebrated Christmas made her feel not so far away from home.
"Christmas is very different in the UAE compared to back home, but I can really feel the city get into the Christmas spirit, and it makes me feel like I am back home.
"It has always been imperative for my family to make sure that we all spend this time of the year together, but sometimes we can't - and that's why it's really important to surround ourselves with friends who also make us feel at home."
Rico said she attended a holy mass at her local church in Abu Dhabi on Christmas eve, before having dinner with friends, and called her mother and family in the Philippines on Christmas morning.
"Sharing Christmas with friends from the same culture makes us feel like we are not too far away from home. We kind of take away that sadness by gathering together and doing what we would normally do back home," added Rico, who has been living in Abu Dhabi for five years.
Kevin Hilton, 42, operations manager, Crave Restaurants, said celebrating Christmas in Abu Dhabi is certainly different from his hometown, New York - a city that is perhaps known as the beacon of Christmas spirit.
However, he said he is truly impressed with how the UAE is embracing Christmas, with everything "Christmassy".
Hilton said if he was in New York for Christmas this year, he would have celebrated with his family and friends and spent the day at Rockefeller Center and at Central Park. "But having good friends here gives me the feeling of Christmas back home, because it's all about gathering together and sharing an intimate experience," added Hilton.