Tehran Times, Iran
Jan 2 2012

Christmas in the Iranian plateau Afshin Majlesi
02 January 2012 16:31

Photo: 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.