Not many Christians have been left in Iraq, since the war broke out in 2003. However, the small population of Iraqi Christians does celebrate the festive occasion with enthusiasm. The government of Iraq declared Christmas as an official holiday for the first time in 2008. Celebrations of the festival in Iraq are different from those in western world. Christian families gather together and celebrate the day in a deeply religious way. Quiet and solemn celebrations are to be seen and Christmas parties are not very common. Read on to know about the Christmas traditions and customs in the Middle Eastern country of Iraq.
Christmas Celebrations in Iraq
An atypical ceremony is held in courtyards of Christian households in Iraq, on the Christmas Eve. The children of the family read the story of Nativity from an Arabic Bible. During this time, other family members hold lighted candles and listen to the story. At one corner of the courtyard, a pile of dried thorns is kept. After the story has been read, a bonfire is created with the pile of thorns. Iraqi Christians believe that the burning fire forecasts the future of the household in the forthcoming year. If the thorns burn completely to become ash, it is seen as an indicator of goof fortune for the family. All the family members jump over the ash thrice, and make a wish.
A religious service is held in the local churches on the Christmas Day. All the Christian families located around or nearby the church attend the service. A bonfire, akin to the one created on Christmas Eve, is lit in the church and the men of congregation chant a hymn as the fire burns. This is followed by a procession that is carried out in the neighborhood. In the religious procession, the bishop holds an image of infant Jesus upon a scarlet cushion and walks ahead, while other officials of the church follow him. The Christmas church service is fairly long and ends with the Bishop blessing the people. He touches his hand on a member of the congregation. That member touches the person standing next to him and the process continues until every one in the procession has received the 'Touch of Peace.'