Christmas in Iraq
The vast majority of Iraqis are Muslims. Christians make up less than five percent of the population of this Middle Eastern nation. The majority of them embrace some form of Eastern Christianity that is, traditions of Christian worship and belief that developed in the Middle East, north Africa, and eastern Europe. Some come from minority ethnic groups, such as the Assyrians and Chaldeans, and represent remnants of ancient Christian communities. Iraqi Christians belong to many different denominations, including the Syrian, Greek, and Armenian Orthodox and Catholic churches, the Coptic Church, the Assyrian (or Nestorian) Church, and the Chaldean Church. A few Western Christians, that is, Roman Catholics and Protestants, live in Iraq as well.
Christmas observances among the many Christian denominations vary. Yet everyone goes to religious services on Christmas Eve or Day. Iraqi Christians also celebrate the holiday by sharing a sumptuous dinner with family members and friends. Moreover, they exchange gifts said to come from the Iraqi gift bringer, Baba Noel—an adaptation of Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Offering holiday hospitality to friends and neighbors is an Iraqi Christmas tradition. In the capital city of Baghdad, people visit one another’s homes in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, giving and receiving lavish welcomes. In the countryside village residents may sit down together to a communal Christmas meal, often featuring roast lamb.
Many Iraqis celebrate Christmas by putting up a Christmas tree in their home. This custom is not limited to Christians, however. Many Muslims, too, have embraced this tradition as a means of enjoying a bit of holiday fun and as a way of decorating their home for the new year.