LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Christians throughout Arkansas will celebrate Christmas this week, marking the arrival of the country’s most popular holiday.
Houses of worship will likely receive their largest crowds of the year at a time when the rapidly spreading COVID-19 omicron variant goes through the state.
Christmas will fall on Saturday, and many churches plan to host services on Christmas Eve and the holiday itself. Several said they do not plan to add any health regulations, which are not mandated under current state law. The omicron variant is now the leading form of COVID-19 in the country, according to new CDC data, but studies have not indicated whether it is stronger than the Delta variant.
Other churches plan to have some restrictions or guidelines in place with the expected additional crowd taking part in Christmas festivities.
“It’s always great to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ,” said Michael McMurray, a spokesperson for Pulaski Heights United Methodist in Little Rock. “It’s one of the bigger holidays.”
Pulaski Heights United Methodist will require masking for its 4 p.m. family service and recommend masking for all other services.
“There are going to be so many children who haven’t had the opportunity to be vaccinated,” McMurray said.
Last year, Pulaski Heights United Methodist did not have a Christmas service.
“We were still not open,” McMurray said. “All of our staff were wearing masks and working from home.”
Many Arkansans will celebrate Christmas this year without loved ones who were taken by COVID-19, and McMurray said his church doesn’t want to add to that list.
“We’re just going to continue to implore people to get vaccinated, get boosted, so we can continue to be able to worship together,” McMurray said.