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All photos by Lance Cenar

Thousands of Christians in Qatar flocked to the Religious Complex in Mesaimeer yesterday and today for Christmas prayer services.

The complex is hosting dozens of services in various languages and denominations to accommodate the faithful.

For example, at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Rosary, prayer services were held in English, Italian, Spanish, Tamil, French, Arabic and Malayalam yesterday.

Lance Cenar

Gift giving

After services, many visitors could be seeing taking photos, singing songs and participating in general merriment as part of the festive season.

As usual, traffic in and around the area was busy yesterday, and will continue to be hectic today.

Hotel celebrations canceled

Elsewhere in Qatar, residents marked Christmas by opening presents, visiting friends and family and heading out to eat.

Many however complained after a spate of hotels canceled some of their festive season celebrations at the last minute.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The Radison Blu, Hilton Doha and Shangri La all posted on Facebook that the cancelation of Christmas carol singing or appearances by Santa were due to “circumstances beyond their control.”

This has caused some to wonder whether the government ordered the move.

The Qatar Tourism Authority, which regulates the country’s hospitality industry, did not respond to questions about this from Doha News.

Others theorized that the hotels were acting out of solidarity with Aleppo.

A week ago, Qatar’s National Day celebrations were canceled due to the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria.

Are you celebrating Christmas today? Thoughts?

Chantelle D'mello

A Christmas display at the St. Regis, 2014

From celebrating Christmas to cheering on your favorite team at the Italian Super Cup to enjoying the MIA Park bazaar for two days straight, there’s lots to do around town this weekend.

Here are our picks:

Hotel Christmas activities

Many hotels are hosting Christmas-themed dinners, buffets and lunches in Qatar.

Other festive season events include take-away Christmas lunches, gingerbread house making classes, and tree lighting ceremonies.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Though many of these have already taken place, Fraser Suites Doha is holding its lighting ceremony tomorrow from 6:30pm to 8:30pm in its lobby.

Meanwhile, the Ritz Carlton will hold gingerbread house making classes on Friday and Saturday. They will have both 10am and 3pm classes, each of which cost QR200 per house.

And the Radisson Blu will host a Christmas party for children this Friday, Dec. 23 at its Venus and Earth Hall from 5pm to 8pm.

The party will feature holiday music, a mini buffet, cookie decorating and baking, as well as a visit from Santa, who will be giving out presents. Entry price is QR70 for children between four and 10 years old. More info here.

Many other hotels are offering discounts and three-course festive menus throughout the weekend. Check out Marhaba’s detailed guide on these meals here.

Religious services

The Christian churches at Doha’s religious complex, on the outskirts of the city, will hold numerous services over Christmas weekend.

Navin Sam / Doha News

Qatar’s Catholic church

The Catholic church Our Lady of the Rosary will be hold a Christmas vigil this Saturday. Mass timings range from 5am up until 10:30pm. Services will be in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Arabic, Malayalam, Tamil, Sinhala, Konkani and Maronite.

Details of exact timings of services are not yet available for the Church of the Epiphany, but we will update with the information when it comes in.

Secret Santa Village

Local eco-tourism company 365 Adventures – Qatar will host a full day of Christmas festivities on Saturday, Dec. 24 from 2pm to 10pm at Sealine.

Activities will include dune bashing, camel riding, camping at the Inland sea, Secret Santa gift distributions and a Mediterranean barbecue dinner.

Patrick Gage Kelley/Flickr

Photo of Sealine beach for illustrative purposes only.

Ticket prices for adults cost QR275 per person for online payments and QR285 for cash payments.

Tickets for children between six and 12 years old cost QR150 and are free for children below six. All can be purchased here. Check out the event’s Facebook page for more information.

Italian Super Cup

Italian football giants Juventus and AC Milan will face off in Qatar this Friday, Dec. 23 for the 2016 Supercoppa TIM.

Although tickets are officially sold out, you could still win a pair if you take part in Twitter contests from the Qatar Football Association. These entail simply retweeting some of their tweets, sharing photos or videos, etc.

The match will begin at 7:30pm and will take place at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, so for those who aren’t going, be sure to expect traffic in the area.

Expanded MIA park bazaar

Qatar’s largest outdoor handicrafts and specialty goods is now open on Fridays and Saturdays. It will be open from 3pm to 10pm at MIA Park on Dec. 23 and from noon to 7pm on Dec. 24.

MIA/Facebook

MIA Park Bazaar

The bazaar is a homage to the old souqs of yore, featuring some 150 stalls selling food, clothes, accessories, arts, crafts, décor and the like. The event is free and open to the public. More information can be found here.

Those looking to celebrate Christmas with delicious pies can choose a wide selection of both sugar and savory pies at one of the booths. Check out this page for more information.

Bonus:

  • Rare Banknotes exhibition: Katara Cultural Village is currently holding a banknotes exhibition that features rare collections by collector Hassan al Nuami. The exhibition will run until Dec. 30 from 10am to 10pm daily. It is also free and open to the public.

What are your plans for the weekend? Thoughts?

Aero Icarus / Flickr

A Qatar Airways A330 about to land at London Heathrow

UPDATE Dec.21: Swissport staff have now called off their strike after management made a revised pay offer following talks. 

Passengers flying Qatar Airways to and from London Heathrow in the run-up to Christmas may face disruption due to a planned strike by airport staff.

1,500 employees of Swissport, which handles check-in and baggage handling for the airline at Heathrow, have called a strike for Dec. 23 and Dec. 24, targeting the busy pre-Christmas travel period.

The Swissport staff are members of the Unite union, which said it has called the strike as a “last resort” following a dispute over pay and conditions.

In a statement, the union called on the company’s management to continue negotiations so that the strike could be averted.

‘Minimal impact’

It is unclear how much of an effect the strike will have at the airport if it goes ahead.

A Heathrow spokesman told the BBC that “minimal impact for passengers” is expected.

But, previous strikes have prompted some airlines to offer hand-baggage only flights. And industrial action during one of the year’s busiest travel periods is likely to present a challenge to the airport’s remaining staff.

Qatar Airways has not yet responded to a request for comment about the strike’s possible impact on customers.

Swissport also handles ground services for Emirates at Heathrow.

Are you flying into London over Christmas? Thoughts?