Monday, December 24, 2012

Will Christmas in MENA 2012 Herald A Better Era?

Issa Kassissieh, an Arab Israeli, rings a bell in front of the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City, December 23, 2012. Times Staff. From The Times Multimedia Archive,"Pictures: Christmas around the world".

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


At 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]


An Iraqi security officer walks on the rooftop of a church to tighten security measures prior to Christmas mass [AFP]

Iraq'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]

An 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

Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled to neighbouring Jordan following a spate of bombings that targeted churches in Iraqi cities in the past few years [Reuters]

Iraqi Christians light candles during a mass on Christmas Eve [Reuters]

Iraqi Christian boys attend a Christmas mass at Chaldean Catholic church in Amman [Reuters]

Many Iraqi Christians who fled their homeland are pessimistic about their chances of ever returning [Reuters]


A 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]

Syrian children attend a Christmas celebration at the Mar Takla monastery in the Christian village of Ma'alula [AFP]


A 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]

A 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..."♫

A 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]

A car loaded with balloons to be given to residents as part of Christmas celebrations [Reuters]

A 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]

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, gestures as he heads to the Church of the Nativity to attend Christmas celebrations [Reuters]

Palestinian 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]

Palestinian 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]

Christians 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]

Christian 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


Susanne said...

Great pictures, Chiara! Thanks for sharing them. I enjoyed them, and am sad for those who have left their homes and are now celebrating Christmas elsewhere.

I hope your family has a very merry Christmas. I've missed your posts, and hope you are feeling better!

Majed said...

First of all welcome back Chiara,internet was not the same without your posts.

As for the Christmas,it is as disputed as the birth day of Mohammad peace be upon the them both, nonetheless, to those who believe it is and to those who would simply like to go with the current and jolly with the jollying masses like me, I say merry Christmas.

majed said...

It is very appalling to even think of celebrate any festival in an atmosphere that is clouded with explosions and that reeks death,but sadly this the situation everywhere,I can now hardly recall any place that is otherwise,sometime I wonder if the world has become so tight that it can not accommodate all of us,then I remember when people used to live with far less resources but yet used to accommodate each other,the problem is not with the world, actually it is our hearts that are becoming tighter day by day,I remember celebrating Hindus Festivals and how they used to celebrate ours,but nowadays if a Muslim is returning home with tiny spot of color on the day of Hindu Holi festival of colors,if he is not beaten out he will sure be looked at askance,and I have very sweet memories with the Shia Festivals specially when I used to walk with my uncles(we all are sunnis) all the way with their procession of Alam (flags) of Muharram (it is totally different thing that we think that the whole thing is so stupid and that those days it used to be rather like Samba festival than merely sectarian festival)but I think if we can not change something sure we can live happily with it.
The only thing to blame on this is politicians and national interests of some countries that is spreading bad blood and sawing the seeds of eternal hatred among people for their selfish ends.


Related Posts with Thumbnails