With the arrival of the joyful Christmas season, Iranian Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as well. What is Christmas in Iran like?
Iran is where the Three Wise men are believed to have lived when Jesus was born. Today Iranian Christians start the “Little Fast” on December 1 that is fasting from animal products. And the “Big Fast” occurs during Lent that is six weeks prior to Easter.
Less than 1% of Iran’s populations are Christians consisting of Armenians, Assyrians, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical Christians. Armenian Christians celebrate Christmas on the same day as Epiphany on January 6, while the rest celebrate this day on 25 December. The celebration takes place in the church and at home. After Church service, everyone enjoys the Christmas dinner which they call “Little Feast.”
Christians of Iran are not familiar with Santa Claus; so, gifts are not generally exchanged but children get new clothes which they wear proudly on Christmas Day.
When the cheerful spirit of the season comes around, it hits every soul despite their beliefs or religions. In fact, Christmas decorations take place throughout the country, specifically in major cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and even religious cities such as Mashhad.
Decorated Christmas trees, decoraions, and gifts are all over the stores which are very popular among the young generation of Iranian Muslims as well.
Christmas decorations take place throughout the country, specifically in major cities
Christmas celebration in Tehran
Iranian Christians hold Christmas parties, that sometimes might involve a high entrance fee. Ararat Club in Tehran is one of these centers that hold special Christmas parties every year. There is also a Charity Bazaar with exceptionally tasty foods and some music bands, visitors can enjoy. Armenian families have often “Kukupolo” for dinner on Christmas night and then they go to the church yard to meet friend and families, priests pray in the light of the candles in the church. The church bell rings right at midnight while everyone stop chatting, look at the sky and pray at this particular moment.
Christmas celebration in Isfahan
The Christmas atmosphere is fascinating in Jolfa district of Isfahan in Iran, since this is where the Armenian emigrants live. All through the Jolfa district is decorated with string lights and ornamented pine trees, and there is special ceremony at Vank Cathedral, the most significant Armenian church in Iran. The shops are crowded and people are busy with shopping, walking around and taking photos. Walking through Jolfa is specially fascinating for those interested in cross-cultural differences.
Christmas night at Vank Cathedral
The minority religions in Iran, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are officially recognized and are represented in parliament and can enjoy the freedom of practicing their religion and perform their religious rituals.
Jesus Christ is recognized as one of the holy messengers by Muslims and the day of his birth is acknowledged by Iranian authorities and they send out messages on this occasion to Christians in Iran and all over the world.