Tag Archives: Christmas

Photos: Christians and Muslims celebrate Christmas in Iran

The bell of Surp Karapet Church in Abadan, Khuzestan Province, rang before noon of Christmas Day on December 25, for the only Christian family of the city. Muslim citizens of Abadan joined the feast to wish this family a happy Christmas and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with them.

Surp Karapet, the church of Abadan’s Gregorian Armenians, lies adjacent to Imam Musa Ibn Ja’far Mosque. It was constructed in the 1950s, repaired in 1996 and reopened in 1999, since 40% of the building was damaged during the eight-year war. It is registered as an Iranian national monument and used to serve as the largest hall of meetings for Abadan’s Armenians.

Iran is one of the safest places in the Middle East for Christians with many Iranians loving the flashy side of Christmas. Shoppers gathered over the past month in the Armenian districts of Somayeh and New Julfa — the biggest Christian areas in Tehran and Isfahan — to pick up fake trees and stock up on baubles, reindeer toys and plastic snowmen.

The majority of Iranian Christians are ethnic Armenians and Assyrians, who follow the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East respectively. Armenians celebrate the Nativity and baptism of Jesus on January 6, at the same time as the Epiphany. The Assyrians today celebrate Christmas on December 25.

Early traditions observed the birth of Jesus Christ on January 6 but by the end of the 3rd century, Christmas in Rome was moved to December 25, to override a pagan feast dedicated to the birth of the sun. Since 1923, the Armenian Apostolic Church has mainly used the Gregorian Calendar. The only exception is the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, where the old Julian calendar is used, putting Nativity celebrations on 19 January in the Gregorian calendar.

Photos: Christmas shopping in Tehran and Isfahan, Surp Karapet Church in Abadan (Khuzestan) and liturgies at Surp Mesrob Church in Arak (Markazi), Vank Cathedral in Isfahan, and St. Grigor Lusavoritch Church, St. Joseph Church, St. Sarkis Cathedral, St. Targmantchats Church and Surp Vardanantz Church in Tehran

Sources: France 24, armenianchurch-ed.net, Wikipedia | Christianity in the Middle East (Iran), Wikipedia | Christmas traditions (Assyrians), Wikipedia | Armenian Apostolic Church, Mehr News Agency (in Persian), Tehran (BORNA 1, BORNA 2, ISNAIRNA, ANA), Isfahan (IRNA), Surp Karapet Church, Abadan (Iran Front Page, Twitter @afptehran, instagram @sara_kaabii, instagram @majid.rahimi1), Surp Mesrob, Arak (ISNA), Vank Cathedral, Isfahan (IRNA, Tasnim News Agency), St. Grigor Lusavoritch, Tehran (BORNA), St. Joseph’s, Tehran (Twitter @ali_noorani_teh, Mail Online), St. Sarkis Cathedral, Tehran (Mehr News Agency, IRNA 1, ANA, IRNA 2), St. Targmantchats, Tehran (ANA), Surp Vardanantz, Tehran (BORNA)

Photo gallery: Armenian Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on 6th of January in Isfahan, Iran

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

More content on Iranian Christians on this blog: The other Iran | Christians

Sources: Mehr News Agency | Photos, Al-Monitor: the pulse of the Middle East | Iran’s Christians celebrate Christmas

Photo gallery: Christmas 2014 in Iran – Christmas shopping part 3

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

 

 

More content on Iranian Christians on this blog: https://theotheriran.com/tag/christians/

Sources: MEHR, IRNA

Iran’s Christians celebrate Christmas (Text & Photos)

As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is also observed in Iran, a predominantly Muslim nation where Christians make up less than 1% of the country’s approximate population of 77.5 million.

Christmas trees decorated with red, green and gold gift boxes placed behind shop windows or at the entrances of different shopping malls and hotels can be seen, especially in the Christian neighborhoods of Tehran.

Decorated trees, along with Nativity scenes of the Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, can also be seen in shops along Mirza Shirazi Avenue and Ostaad Nejatollahi (Villa Avenue) and its surrounding neighborhoods in central Tehran, where many Iranian Christians reside.

Shermin, an Iranian Christian, told Al-Monitor, “Like other Christians in the world, we celebrate Christmas at home along with our family and friends, exchange gifts and party.” She added, “There are a lot of good things to eat at this joyful time of the year.”

Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.

Despite being a minority, Iran’s Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are recognized as established religious minorities and are represented in parliament, and also enjoy freedom to practice their religions and perform their religious rituals.

“You can’t celebrate Christmas in any Islamic country the way we do in Iran,” Rafi Moradians, an Iranian Armenian in Tehran, told Al-Monitor. Referring to the community’s exclusive sport and cultural club, Rafi said, “Authorities don’t impose any restrictions on us. We attend church services and there are also special celebrations at the Ararat Club.”

The festive mood, however, is not just limited to the Christian neighborhoods of Tehran, as some shops, especially those in the northern parts of the city, dedicate at least some section of their shop windows to decorations such as candy canes, snow globes and Santa Claus figures.

In recent years, municipal authorities have also put up banners celebrating the birth of Jesus on many main streets and at the St. Sarkis Armenian Church on Villa Avenue, where a service is held every year.

Unlike other countries in the region where public celebration of Christmas is limited to hotels frequented by foreigners, there is no such restriction in Tehran. The sale of Christmas ornaments, which during the first years of the Islamic Revolution was limited to Christian districts, can now be seen around town.

In fact, festive Christmas decoration and celebration take place throughout the country, specifically in major cities such as Esfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and even religious cities such as Mashhad.

Over the past decade, celebrating Christmas has become increasingly popular among young Iranians, regardless of their religion. Of course, the trend has a partly religious basis, as Muslims acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ and recognize him as one of God’s holy messengers. But another reason for taking part in Christmas celebrations seems to be rooted in the Iranian youth’s desire to “keep up with the rest of the world.”

“I get so excited when I see shops decorated with Christmas trees. It gives me the same good feeling and joy that I get during the Persian New Year, Nowruz,” Venus, a Muslim student who studies Iranian art at one of Tehran’s universities, told Al-Monitor.

Ordinary Iranians are not alone in the holiday celebrations and in exchanging greetings at Christmas time. This year, President Hassan Rouhani sent season’s greetings to Pope Francis and world leaders. Through his Twitter account, Rouhani reached out to ordinary Christians around the globe, as well as those in Iran.

“May Jesus Christ, the prophet of peace and love, bless us all on this day. Wishing Merry #Christmas to those celebrating, esp #Iranian Christians,” he tweeted.

Also, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif used his 100th tweet to express hope for a more peaceful 2015.

The Twitter account belonging to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also featured a series of messages on the occasion of Christmas. One of the messages read: “It’s time for all caring Muslims, Christians & Jews to obey the prophets & truly honor #Jesus’ birthday by standing up against Israeli crimes.”

Covering Christmas and New Year’s events has also become routine for Iranian media in the past decade. For instance, the state news agency IRNA published a photo report of celebrations across the world this year. A similar photo report was published by the conservative Tasnim news agency and videos of Christmas celebrations around the globe were broadcast on state TV channels.

“As an Armenian, I’ve never felt any discrimination and I’ve been treated just as other Iranians,” said Rafi, who is a Western-educated Armenian and has worked in various government organizations, including as a senior adviser in one of Iran’s ministries.

“If I had any problems living as an Armenian in Iran, I would have left the country a long time ago,” he told Al-Monitor.

This year’s Christmas coincided with a mourning period for Muslims, Shiites in particular. But Iranian Christians say they have not encountered any restrictions on their celebration of Christmas or their preparations for the New Year.

Source: AL-Monitor, MEHR, IRNA

Photo gallery: Christmas 2014 in Iran – Christmas Shopping, Part 2

Many shops in Tehran are displaying colorful Christmas decorations and ornaments welcoming the Christians who are busy shopping ahead of the the Armenian Christmas on January 6.

Although a minority religious group in Iran, Christians of Iran are free to practice their religion and perform their religious rituals.

 

Source: http://www.payvand.com/news/14/dec/1166.html

Christmas 2014 in Iran – Christmas Shopping, Part 1 can be found here: https://theotheriran.com/2014/12/25/photo-gallery-christmas-2014-in-iran-christmas-shopping/

Another good read on Iranian Christians is available here: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/12/iran-christians-armenians-christmas-rouhani.html##ixzz3NFNpgGCg

Photo gallery: Christmas 2014 in Iran – Armenian Christmas Food

Every holiday has its own traditional food, in Iran or anywhere else in the world. Iranian Christians, including Armenians, celebrate Christmas and the Christian new year with special dishes, pastries and drinks.

Many Iranians are under the impression that Iranian Armenians, like many other Christians in the world — and especially Americans — celebrate the new year, Christmas and Easter by feasting on turkey. In fact, turkey is as  popular among Armenians as it is among other Iranians in general.

So what is an Armenian Christmas dinner like? The Iranian calendar year starts with the spring equinox, on March 20 or 21, and Iranians celebrate with a dish of herb rice and fish. As it happens, this dish is also a staple of the Armenian Christmas dinner in Iran.

But the Armenian Christmas table has other dishes as well. A key part of the meal is vegetable kuku, an Iranian dish consisting of eggs, vegetables, herbs and sometimes nuts and dried berries. If you ask an Armenian where this tradition comes from the answer is more often than not “I don’t know”.

“On their Christmas eve, Iranian Armenians often dine on rice, fish and vegetable kuku,” writes the Iranian Armenian writer and documentary filmmaker Robert Safarian. “Since childhood we thought that this was a Christmas tradition until the borders to Armenia opened and we learned that there is no dish in Armenia called vegetable kuku. It is an Iranian dish that  has become an Armenian tradition.”

Armenian Christmas pastries follow a tradition too. The two most well known and popular ones are perok (or pirok) marmalade cake and gata pastry. In the past, these two dishes were only popular among Armenians but now they are among the highest-selling pastries in Tehran confectionaries.

Coins of Fortune

Gata varies in its ingredients, size and in how it is decorated, depending on the region or the cook’s preferences. It consists of layers of dough with alternating layers of butter or margarine. Ingredients include flour, sugar, butter, eggs, yeast, milk and salt. Sometimes rosewater or spices such as cardamom are added, though they are not part of the standard recipe. After about an hour in the oven, the layers rise and the final gata takes shape.

One of the most popular variations of gata is made with nuts, especially walnuts. Sometimes a coin is hidden at the center of the gata and the belief is that fortune will smile on whoever finds the coin in her or his gata.

Gata is generally known as a sweet pastry but a salty version is popular too; many Armenian households prepare them for Christmas or the new year.

Perok, the other favorite holiday pastry, is made from a dough very similar to that used to make pie. Its center consists of marmalade; variations in perok are defined by the type of marmalade used.

The ingredients for perok are: pastry flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, grated orange peel, grated walnut, and marmalade. First you mix the butter and sugar, then add eggs one by one as you continue to mix. Then mix flour, baking powder, vanilla, grated orange peel and walnuts together in a separate bowl. For the third step, pour the contents of the bowl into a mixer. After a short while, turn the mixer off and continue to combine the ingredients by hand. Put about one-fourth of the dough aside and place the rest in a Pyrex dish and cover it with marmalade.

Cut the dough you have put aside into narrow ribbons and place them on the marmalade surface, making an “X” pattern. Put into an oven pre-heated to about 175 degrees centigrade and bake for about 40 minutes, or when the perok is golden.

Do-It-Yourself Wine

Like many Christians in the world, cookies and chocolates shaped like Christmas trees, Santa Claus or other symbols of the holiday are popular with Armenians. Families put them under Christmas trees and give them to children as treats and gifts.

You must add coffee and wine to this feast — they have a religious significance for all Christians. Under the Islamic Republic of Iran, trade in alcoholic beverages is forbidden, so the Armenian community makes its own wine and other alcoholic drinks. The law allows religious minorities to make wine for religious purposes.

One last point. The Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6, so after the new year. As to why, well, that is another story, as they say.

This article was originally published in IranWire

Photo gallery: Christmas 2014 in Iran – Christmas Shopping

Mirza Shirazi Avenue, formerly known as Nader Shah, is located in one of the main Armenian neighborhoods in Tehran. At the moment, the avenue is decorated for Christmas and the approaching new year. Shop windows display Santa Claus dolls and the sidewalks are filled with pine trees, which will decorate the homes of Iranian Christians.

But Christmas is not only visible in this central Tehran street. It is also being celebrated in the east Tehran neighborhood of Majidieh, where many residents are preparing for Christmas and the new year period, now just a few days away.

Every year, starting in late November, shops in the two streets are decorated with gifts, pine trees, Santa Claus dolls and other seasonal items —  and shoppers are ready.

Pictures of Christmas Season in different Iranian cities. Click the photos to open them in enlarged gallery mode:

“From the first day of Azar (November 22), we get ready and make sure we have the merchandise,” says K., a shopkeeper on Mirza Shirazi Avenue. […] “The shoppers are not only Armenians and Christians. Many Muslims buy pine trees, Santa Clauses and other Christmas items and celebrate the holidays,” he explains. “They say it is a joyous and beautiful celebration. I don’t find it unusual, because Armenians celebrate the Iranian new year and participate in some Muslim religious ceremonies as well.” […]

“If you have an Armenian friend, remember not to call him on December 25, when all the radios and TVs and newspapers talk about Christmas and congratulate Christians on the birth of Jesus,” wrote the Armenian writer and documentary filmmaker Robert Safarian on his blog a few years ago. “The Armenian Christmas is on January 6, when probably nobody calls anyone to celebrate the holiday.”

“On their Christmas Eve, Iranian Armenians often dine on rice, fish and vegetable kuku (an Iranian dish made with whipped eggs, vegetables and herbs),” wrote Safarian. “Since childhood, we thought that this was a Christmas tradition until the borders to Armenia were opened and we learned that there is no dish in Armenia called vegetable kuku. It is an Iranian dish that has become an Armenian tradition.”

Because religious occasions in Iran are observed according to the Islamic lunar calendar, this year’s Christmas coincides with a mourning period for Muslims, and Shias in particular. But Iranian Christians have not encountered any restrictions in their preparations for Christmas and the new year. It continues to be a celebration that manifests itself in color and light in a few streets in the center of the Iranian capital.
This text is part of an article published on IranWire

Sources
DeutscheWelle
IranWire