Streets decorated with lights, trees with garlands and ornaments in most malls and city centres, people taking pictures with the tree while Christmas songs play in the background—this is the Christmas spirit in Egypt.
Despite the fact that Christmas is a commemoration of the birth of Jesus, many Muslims share the different festive rituals of Christmas with Christians. For many Muslims, decorating their houses with Christmas trees, having dinner together on Christmas Eve, and exchanging gifts with friends are as essential as buying “Halawet El-Mouled” (candy distributed to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad).
Nada Ahmed, 24, feels the importance of celebrating Christmas, even if she’s a Muslim. “There’s something magical about Christmas. It’s not only about the decorations, trees, or songs. It’s the holy spirit that we also feel in Ramadan and Eid. Just a short walk down the street draws a smile on one’s face and clears the mind and soul.”
Her celebrations include going out with friends and having Christmas dinner while wearing festive clothes.
Celebrating the birth of whom she believes is a prophet as holy as the one she believes in is also another reason that makes her want to live the Christmas-spirit to the fullest.
“Jesus came seeking justice, love, and peace; things that our prophet also called for. How can I not celebrate the birth of a prophet who came seeking the same messages as my prophet? Despite the differences between our religions, both Christians and Muslims believe that he’s a miracle, and miracles deserve to be appreciated and celebrated,” she added.
“In the end, it’s not about a certain religion. It’s about the holiness of appreciating one’s closeness to God, and expressing love to family and friends,” Ahmed stated.
As for G.H., 27, she finds that the Christmas season promotes most of what she seeks and can’t find in Islamic festivities, such as serenity and self-connection.
“Christmas is all about quietness, connecting to one’s self and family, while decorating the house, or sitting down to have Christmas dinner. This is unlike both Islamic Eids which are usually connected to noise, the blood of slaughtered animals, and a huge amount of food,” she explained.
All of her life, decorating her house and listening to Christmas songs while lighting the tree are the most essential December rituals that can’t be missed.
Dina Kamel, 24, a translator, has been celebrating Christmas ever since she was 13. This includes fully decorating her house, purchasing gifts for her friends, and listening to Christmas songs.
“These festive ceremonies are extremely cheerful. I love celebrating things generally, and with Christmas, I find the perfect chance to cheer up and practise my hobby of decorating my home,” she said.
From her point of view, as a Muslim, she believes that Jesus is the prophet of God, and celebrating the birth of a prophet is as cheerful, holy, and important as celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad.
“Christmas is also a chance for me to exchange gifts with my friends and tell them how important they are to me,” she concluded.
Photos by Mohamed Omar