Happy New Year and Merry
Yes, thatís the correct order in the Middle East, since Christmas is
celebrated on January 7th!
Although Christmas is celebrated in so many different ways all over the
world, some places do not celebrate it at all. This would include countries
where Christians are a small minority, and in many of the Muslim and
Communist countries. Some places offer Christmas celebrations only for
tourists who will be visiting over the holiday season.
Christianity in Egypt goes back to the first century.
After Egyptian Christians return from church on Christmas Eve (January 6th),
they partake in a meal of rice and meat. That may not be so unusual, but
tradition dictates that they eat no dairy products or meat from the 25th of
November until the evening of the 6th of January.
In Nigeria, many people return to the hometown in which they grew up. The
time is spent with relatives who still live there and friends from childhood
also returning for the holiday. A traditional meal for a Nigerian Christmas
is a spicy and hot dish containing vegetables and yams. Families attend
church services and give gifts to people who are less fortunate.
Christmas in Zimbabwe is celebrated with gifts the man in the household
gives to his wife and children. The gift of choice is generally clothing and
candy. Church is attended on Christmas morning and then a meal of meat
(possibly goat or ox) and bread, jam, porridge, and tea is served. After the
meal, people often get together to sing hymns and play games.
Many regions of the Middle East are predominately Muslim, so Christmas is
not celebrated. There are some countries where the only holiday celebrations
that are happening will be held inside the American and other Western
embassies and tourist hotels.
Despite the political climate, there is one place in the Middle East
where Christmas is very important. In the "little town of Bethlehem,"
worshippers on Christmas Eve start at the "Shepherds' Field" and then move
to the Church of the Nativity, believed to be built over the place where the
Christ Child was born. Attendance to the Christmas Eve Mass is by invitation
only due to space restrictions, but the service can be seen on screens in
Manger Square by thousands of people not able to get into the church.
Lebanon is one place in the Middle East that hosts very festive
celebrations during the holiday season. The streets are bright with holiday
lights, Christmas carols are played and sung, and families gather on
Christmas Eve for a traditional meal of chicken and the famous Lebanese
tabbouleh and hummus. The Yule log cake, Buche de Noel, tops the meal and
there are midnight church services with everyone wearing new clothes.
Lebanese children, just like American children, often hang a stocking by the
fireplace and wait for Papa Noel to bring gifts.
Please continue to pray for those who do not know the reason for the
Once again, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2018!