BLOG: Christmas in Syria

All around the world people celebrate the festive season in different and unique ways. Lara, an ESOL(English Speakers of Other Languages) student, shares with us how the Christmas season is celebrated in her home country, Syria.

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Barbara, a traditional dish served at Christmas

While only 10% of the Syrian population follows Christianity, most Syrian people celebrate Christmas and share greetings and good wishes with their neighbours and friends using the Arabic words Milad Majid for Merry Christmas.

Usually, in Syria, you can feel the Christmas celebration atmosphere approaching on December 4th, with the Feast of St Barbra celebrated by the Western Church then on December 17th by The Eastern Orthodox Church. Children dress up in costumes and go to collect sweets from their friends’ and relatives’ houses, and the families prepare a special dish called the Barbara, which consists of boiled grain and corn with sugar, Sultane, nuts and pomegranate seeds.

We have two days when we celebrate Christmas Day in Syria. The first one is on December 25th, and the second is on January 6th, depending on which church you go to. The houses, buildings, trees, shopping centres and roads are festooned with Christmas lights to reflect the moods of the Christmas season.

For the Eastern Orthodox followers, the children leave their shoes outside on Christmas Eve with some hay and water beside them for the Wise Man, the most miniature camel, who brings gifts every Christmas eve. The smallest camel is a seasonal character of the Nativity story and it is said that he had an extremely rough time making the journey which he was unable to complete, despite his efforts. For his loyalty and determination to see the Christ Child, he received a blessing of immortality and hence on the night of every January 5th, the little camel brings gifts.

The little camel is equivalent to Father Christmas for Western Church followers who brings gifts to the children.

Christmas dinner is also a tradition followed by Christians in Syria, and we eat lamb or turkey, pastries, nuts and homemade liqueur.