Christmas is a popular festival celebrated all over the world with great zest and passion. The Christians in Syria follow their Christmas traditions conscientiously. For them, the smallest camel who carried the 'Three Wise Kings', is believed to bring gifts for little children in Syria. The children leave shoes filled with hay on their doorsteps to feed the camels. Syrian Christians attend a special Mass that is dedicated to St. Nicholas on the 6th of December annually. Apart from attending Masses at church, people in Syria perform various Christmas rituals as a part of the celebrations. Reciting hymns, setting up Nativity Scenes, lighting bonfires and leaping over the embers to make wishes are some of the important Christmas rituals in Syria. Several scrumptious delicacies are prepared and served to families and friends during the Christmas feast. Read this article to know more about the Christmas customs, traditions and celebrations in Syria.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
In Syria, the festival of Christmas is celebrated on a grand scale. Houses, buildings, trees, shopping centers and roads are festooned with Christmas lights to reflect the moods of the Christmas season. Syrian Christian families, follow their own Christmas customs to commemorate the festival of Christmas.
Every year, on the 6th of December, a large crowd of Syrians, attend special Masses held in churches. This day is marked to honor St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra - a kind-hearted man who was known for his compassion and generosity towards children.
Syrian Christmas Traditions
On Christmas Eve, Syrian Christian families lock the gates of their homes, to serve as a reminder of their persecutions during the old times, when Christianity was forbidden. The families get together on the Eve of Christmas and perform Christmas rituals as per Syrian traditions. On this day, the youngest child in the family recites the Gospel story of the Nativity aloud, after which, a family member is expected to light a bonfire in the courtyard. The family members then gather around the bonfire with candles in their hands. The Syrian Christians observe the manner in which the flames of the bonfire spread through the wood. They observe this, in order to determine whether they would be blessed in the coming year or otherwise. Psalms are recited till the fire lasts and once the fires have seared out, Syrian Christians leap over the hot charcoal embers and make their wishes.
Masses At Church
On Christmas morning, the people attend Mass at church and a cheerful procession is held. Wherever the Mass is held, a bonfire is also lit right in the center of the venue. During the Mass, the Syrian people chant hymns and prayers. The priest would carry a figure of Jesus Christ in his hand and walk around the church, while the Syrians recite the hymns. After the prayers, the priest performs the 'touch of peace', wherein he touches a person's hand and the touch is passed from one person to another in the church. This ensures the blessings are passed on.
Syrian Christmas Feasting
The Christmas dinner is the next, chief event for the Syrians. The people prepare delicious chicken, lamb and dessert dishes. Some of their famous Christmas dishes include 'Baba Ghannouj', 'Hummus', 'Baklava' and 'Mezze platters'.
About 10 per cent of the entire Nation of Syria is made up of Eastern Christians, who celebrate Christmas. Many of them observe fasts, which is actually a spiritual preparation before Christmas. Their fasts include avoiding foods that contain dairy products, meat, eggs and fish.
According to the Syrian legends, the camel is believed to be the traditional gift-bringer. Legend states that, the youngest camel carrying the 'Three Kings' or 'Magi', who followed the star to search for Baby Jesus, was drained by the long journey and fell down. Jesus Christ is said to have blessed the camel with immortal life. The Syrians believe that the camel bring gifts to the children on New Year's Eve, every year. The children in Syria leave shoes outside their houses on the Eve of Christmas, along with hay and some water to feed the camel. The next morning, these children would eagerly search for their gifts in the shoes. People in Syria, religiously observe Christmas every year. 'Milad Majid' meaning 'Merry Christmas' is wished in Arabic to the people of Syria. During the Christmas season, the people embark on a shopping spree with their families as a part of age-old tradition. Women are expected to shop for sweets and the men accompany the women for shopping. Shopping is considered a major activity during the Christmas festivities.
Christmas is a festival that is celebrated globally and Syria is no exception. In Syria, Christmas is celebrated with devoted passion and zeal. Children believe that their Christmas gift-bringer is a small camel that they eagerly wait for every year on New Year's Eve.