Christmas is the first major celebration of the Christian liturgical calendar, which begins 4 Sundays prior with the Advent Season of preparing for the birth of the Christ child. In that sense it marks a new year, a new beginning, a new era. Its occurrence with the Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere, a natural and cultural marker of a time of death and renewal of the sun, and of the year's seasonal and human cycles further emphasizes that Christmas is a time of change and renewal.
In the title of this post I have posed a complex question, in a much simplified way. One has only to think of current struggles, political, economic, and social, in those countries which led the Arab Spring, and in those which participated heavily, or to the best of their abilities within much constrained circumstances, to realize that this is a revolution in progress, evolving over time, and with the customary advances, setbacks, twists of fate, and surprise complications that history blurs for past revolutions.
As a reminder of some of what transpired and impacted celebrations at this time last year, below I have re-titled (in bold) and re-ordered (alphabetically by country, with Palestine at the end), pictures from the 2011 Aljazeera "In Depth: In Pictures" feature,"Christmas in the Middle East: Christians in the Arab world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ after year of unprecedented political upheaval."
I look forward to your comments on how these and other countries in MENA have evolved, and what concerns and hopes you have for them, or any other thoughts, comments, feelings these pictures inspire.
Christmas in MENA 2011: Mixed Blessings
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty ImagesAt the end of a year of political turmoil, faithful arrive to attend Christmas Eve mass at St Therese Christian Armenian church in Cairo, Egypt [AFP]
SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty ImagesAn Iraqi security officer walks on the rooftop of a church to tighten security measures prior to Christmas mass [AFP]
SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty ImagesIraq's Christians, markedly fewer in number following attacks on their minority community, are increasingly fearful in the face of a rise in sectarian tensions after the withdrawal of US troops [AFP]
SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty ImagesAn elderly Iraqi Christian walks past a statue of Virgin Mary attending the Christmas mass at the Virgin Mary Chaldean Christian church in the capital Baghdad [AFP]
Iraqis in Jordan
ALI JAREKJI/REUTERSThousands of Iraqi Christians fled to neighbouring Jordan following a spate of bombings that targeted churches in Iraqi cities in the past few years [Reuters]
ALI JAREKJI/REUTERSIraqi Christians light candles during a mass on Christmas Eve [Reuters]
ALI JAREKJI/REUTERSIraqi Christian boys attend a Christmas mass at Chaldean Catholic church in Amman [Reuters]
ALI JAREKJI/REUTERSMany Iraqi Christians who fled their homeland are pessimistic about their chances of ever returning [Reuters]
JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty ImagesA Syrian man dressed as Santa Claus plays with orphans. Nine months of unrest in Syria have stripped Christian neighbourhoods of any sign of Christmas joy as Syrian Christians have decided to cancel celebrations and only observe Christmas mass [AFP]
JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty ImagesSyrian children attend a Christmas celebration at the Mar Takla monastery in the Christian village of Ma'alula [AFP]
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERSA man dressed as Santa Claus waves to passersby in front of the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City during a Christmas tree distribution by Jerusalem's municipality [Reuters]
SAIF DAHLAH/AFP/Getty ImagesA Palestinian girl dressed as Santa Claus prays at the Latin Church in the West Bank village of Zababdah, near Jenin [AFP]
♫"O little town of Bethlehem, how entrenched we see thee lie..."♫
MUSA AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty ImagesA man dressed as Father Christmas drives past the Israeli-built separation barrier as Christians arrive to celebrate Christmas mass in the West Bank city of Bethlehem [AFP]
MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERSA car loaded with balloons to be given to residents as part of Christmas celebrations [Reuters]
AMMAR AWAD/ReutersA Palestinian wood carver works on a Christian religious figure, made out of olive wood, in a factory in the West Bank town of Bethlehem [Reuters]
MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERSThe Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, gestures as he heads to the Church of the Nativity to attend Christmas celebrations [Reuters]
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty ImagesPalestinian girls gather outside the Church of the Nativity, which is built over the site where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable and then laid him in an animal's feeding trough, or manger [AFP]
MUSA AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty ImagesPalestinian Scouts play the bagpipes outside the Church of the Nativity as thousands of Christian pilgrims descend on Bethlehem to celebrate in Jesus' traditional birthplace [AFP]
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty ImagesChristians and others gather in Manger Square, the central plaza next to the Church of the Nativity, as people prepare to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem [AFP]
POOL/REUTERSChristian priests hold a Christmas midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem [Reuters]
For related posts see the ArabiaHistory, Celebrations, MENA, Religion/Interfaith/Islam categories in the side bar, or search the blog by country or topic.
Your comments, thoughts, impressions?
Dec 12 2012 Ramallah – Christmas tree lighting Photo by Mohamed Farrag/WAFA