Christmas in the Iranian plateau Afshin Majlesi

c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_ih2_azzz1.jpg Detail showing religious celebrations of Christmas at the Vank Cathedral, Isfahan
Decorated Christmas trees might not be seen in every corner of Iran these days, but joy and merriment reigns supreme for the Christian population all over the country. This year, the Iranian Christians once again celebrated the birth of Christ in their homeland by decorating Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, and attending services.

Predominantly a Muslim nation, Iran has a sizeable Christian population including Assyrians, Armenians, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical Christians. Although a minority religious group in Iran, Christians of Iran are free to practice their religion and perform their religious rituals.

Christmas in Iran is known as the “Little Feast” to the Assyrians compared to the Easter which is called the Great Feast. For the first 25 days of December, a long fast is observed by the Assyrians. During these days no meat, eggs, milk or cheese is eaten. It is a time of peace and meditation, a time for attending services at the church. After the church service of December 25, Iranian Christians enjoy Christmas dinner which they call the “Little Feast.”

In fact, Christmas Eve is the last day of the fast. Almost before dawn on Christmas Day, the people attend Mass to receive Communion and it is not until they have received this Communion that they are permitted to break their fast. The main dish for Christmas Day is a kind of chicken barley stew called Harrissa. It is cooked in large quantities and lasts for several days.

Nowadays Gifts are less exchanged, but children get new clothes which they wear on Christmas Day. According to Dr. Ahmad Nourizadeh who has done a lot of research on the history of Christians, particularly Armenians in Iran, although Iranian Armenians who make up the majority of the country’s Christian population take January 6th as the birth of Christ, large numbers of Iranian Christians also celebrate the 25th of December along with other Christians in the world.