The Christmas Chronicles, Part 3: Christmas in the Middle East
Christmas is a time when families come together and celebrate the holidays. Christmas chronicles 3:For some, this means spending time with loved ones in their home country. For others, it means traveling to a place that’s foreign to them in order to celebrate Christmas.
This year, we wanted to take a look at the Christmas story from the perspective of those who celebrate it in the Middle East. In part three of our series, we’ll explore how Christians in the region celebrate Christmas. We’ll also talk about how Muslims and Jews participate in the holiday, and what it means to them.
Christmas Traditions in the Middle East
Christmas in the Middle East is a time of joy and celebration. There are many traditional Christmas customs that vary from country to country, but some universal traditions include gift-giving, decorating trees and houses, singing carols, and eating festive food.
In Lebanon, for example, families traditionally exchange gifts on Christmas Day. Gifts can be small or extravagant, but typically involve jeweler, cosmetics, clothes or other decorative items. Many Lebanese couples also celebrate Christmas by going out for dinner or attending a special show.
In the Palestinian territories, Christmas is mainly celebrated by Christians. Churches hold special services and give out presents to children on Christmas day. Families usually spend the holiday together at home cooking traditional dishes like roast lamb or turmeric rice puddings.
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In Syria, most people celebrate Christmas by visiting family and friends. Presents are usually exchanged early in the month before the holiday arrives so that they can be stored away safely until December 25th. Some Syrians also make special sweets called fatayer which are often eaten as part of a festive feast.
Elsewhere in the region, there are variations of these traditional celebrations. For example, in Bahraini culture it is customary to exchange gifts on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). In Iraq, people often eat large meals with lots of traditional desserts on Christmas day. And in Yemen, Muslims usually take a break from fasting during the month of Ramadan to celebrate with family and friends on Christmas Day.
Christmas in Dubai
The Christmas season is a time for family, friends, and loved ones to gather together and celebrate. For many people in the Middle East, this holiday is particularly special as it coincides with Christmastime in the Western world.
In Dubai, the annual celebration of Christmas is a major event. The city is home to several large Christian churches and each year they put on a spectacular display of lights and decorations. There are also numerous smaller churches that organize their own events, including carol singing and gift giving.
Christmas in Dubai is not just about celebrating the holiday; it’s also a time for shopping. Many stores close early on Christmas day so shoppers can get their gifts early. In addition to traditional presents such as jeweler, candies, and toys, some people purchase items related to the Christmas season such as Advent calendars filled with treats.
For those who cannot visit Dubai during the holiday season, there are multiple television specials that depict how the residents of Dubai celebrate Christmas. These specials often include interviews with local residents about their favorite part of the holiday season.
Christmas in Jerusalem
Christmas in Jerusalem is a truly unique experience. The city is adorned with festive lights and decorations, and the festive atmosphere is palpable. Common Christmas traditions such as gift-giving, family gatherings, and festive meals are all enjoyed here.
One of the most popular Christmas events in Jerusalem is the Nativity Scene at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This scene features life-sized figures of Mary, Joseph, Jesus Christ, and angels gazing down on Baby Jesus Christ lying in a manger. Visitors can take photos or enjoy quiet reflection during this special moment of worship.
Many people also visit Bethlehem to witness the traditional Christmas Eve baby nativity scene. This story unfolds at the entrance to the Nativity cave where visitors can purchase traditional Bethlehemite cookies and candies. The scenes inside the cave are incredibly heartwarming and often include live music from local choirs. Christmas in Jerusalem is a truly spiritual experience that will touch your heart!
Christmas in Amman
Christmas in Amman is a time of fun, family and happiness. Families spend their days cooking traditional Jordanian dishes, decorating their homes and waiting for the big day. Children are excited to open their presents and share festive meals with their loved ones. In the evening, residents gather at local parks to celebrate the holiday with carols, fireworks and traditional Christmas dinners.
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Jordanians take great pride in their Christmas traditions and believe that Christmas is a time to celebrate togetherness and goodwill. The country has a long history of celebrating Christmas season, dating back to when Christ was believed to have visited Jordan during the first century AD. Since then, Christians have celebrated the holiday with fervor and joy.
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Today, there are numerous events taking place all over Jordan to mark the occasion of Christmas. Local churches hold special services led by renowned religious figures or choirs. Restaurants offer special menus featuring traditional dishes like manta casseroles and roasted lamb. There are also several festive concerts scheduled throughout the country to entertain visitors while they wait for Santa Claus.
While Christmas in Jordan may not be as extravagant as some other countries in the region, it is still a cherished tradition that families enjoy together year after year.
The Meaning of Christmas in the Middle East
Christmas in the Middle East is a time of joy and happiness. Families come together to celebrate the holiday, exchanging gifts, and eating a festive meal. Christians in the Middle East generally celebrate Christmas on December 25th, while Muslims observe Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
In some parts of the Middle East, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, Christmas is not celebrated at all. In countries like Syria and Lebanon, where Christianity is a minority religion, there are restrictions on what people can do during Christmas celebrations. For example, in Syria it is illegal to put up any decorations or carry out any religious ceremonies.
Despite these restrictions, many Christians in the Middle East enjoy celebrating Christmas. They often decorate their homes with lights and trees, buy presents for their family and friends, attend church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and have a festive dinner afterwards.
It was wonderful to be back in the Middle East, celebrating Christmas with my family. Despite the challenges we faced flying into Cairo and then getting through customs, it was all worth it when we finally arrived at our home in Jerusalem. The Christmas festivities went off without a hitch and now I am eagerly looking forward to spending New Year’s with them once again.