Getting home in time for Christmas took on new meaning for thousands of Roman Catholics at Novena Church this year.
They welcomed their first Christmas in three years back on the church's premises in Thomson Road.
For the past three years, worshippers had to attend mass and other services at Church of the Risen Christ in Toa Payoh Central and at St Joseph's Institution Junior's school hall in Novena while the church underwent a $54 million transformation.
Known officially as the Church of St Alphonsus, it is one of Singapore's most iconic and popular Catholic churches.
It had its first mass on the refurbished premises on Sept 29.
Father Eugene Lee, who presided over this year's Christmas Eve mass, said that it was a joy for the congregation to return to its own church in time for the celebration.
"After three years of praying for and hoping for our new church, to have the dream come true in the shape of such a beautiful place, it brings so much joy to be able to have our first Christmas here this year," he said.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
There is nothing better than your own home ground for serving the people.
FATHER SIMON TAN, consultor of the Church of St Alphonsus, commonly called Novena Church.
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The church's consultor, Father Simon Tan, said: "It feels good to be back; feels like a homecoming."
He added that being back for Christmas gave the festivities a special feel. "There is nothing better than your own home ground for serving the people," he said.
To celebrate the occasion, the church put on a 30-minute nativity play, about the birth of Jesus Christ, among other activities on Christmas Eve.
The play featured 13 cast members, aged seven to 70.
The director of the play, Ms Shermaine Ng, 25, a medical technologist, said that while she had directed plays before, doing so for the first Christmas performance at the new church made this event even more special.
She said: "The performance is quite traditional and simple, and sticks to the roots of the story - just like the church, where we can now come back to our roots and be back at our home location."
At the final rehearsal last Friday, the cast and crew were supported by friends from other churches.
Mr William Royston Enock, 49, a drama teacher and friend of Father Tan, went down that evening to help fine-tune the performance, giving performers tips on how to engage the audience, for example.
The youngest cast member, Megan Lim, seven, was also not from Novena Church. The Primary 1 pupil played an angel in the play.
She said that while she was nervous about the big crowds, she was excited to be able to perform at the new church.
"The church is so pretty, like a castle," said Megan.