Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

You might think that in the Arab world, where Islam is the predominant religion, Christmas would take a back seat. But interestingly, it doesn't.

  • Publish date: Monday، 18 December 2023 Last update: Monday، 25 December 2023
Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

Christmas, a cherished time worldwide honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, brings its own magic to the Arab world.  You might think that in the Arab world, where Islam is the predominant religion, Christmas would take a back seat. But interestingly, it doesn't. The spirit of Christmas thrives and is celebrated in diverse and meaningful ways across the Arab world.

Let's take a closer look at how Christmas unfolds in this culturally rich region:


Christmas market opens in Algerian capital | Arab News

In Algeria, the celebration of Christmas serves as a meaningful opportunity for Christ's followers to share the story of Jesus's birth. Unlike the commercialized aspect of the holiday, Algerian Christians often place greater emphasis on the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. Most families gather in church or homes and even venture to the mountains. They share meals and aspirations for the coming year.


In Egypt, the Christian community which is primarily Coptic Orthodox, marks Christmas on January 7th. This gathers over 10 million followers to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Before Christmas day, Egyptians undergo a 43-day fasting period, strictly adhering to a vegan diet.

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

On the day of Christmas itself, they break their fast with a grand feast, featuring a variety of foods, including meat, poultry, and fish, as they rejoice in the joyous occasion of Christ's birth. This unique blend of fasting and feasting is a significant part of Egyptian Christmas traditions within the vibrant Coptic Christian community.


In Iraq, Christmas is celebrated uniquely, and since 2008, it has been recognized as an official public holiday. On Christmas Eve, a distinctive ceremony takes place in the yards of Christian households. Children read the Nativity story from the Bible, accompanied by family members holding lit candles. After the reading, a pile of dried thorns is set ablaze while singing a psalm.

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

Christian Iraqis associate the burning fire with predicting the future for the upcoming year. Once the fire turns to ashes, family members joyfully jump over them three times, making wishes for the year ahead. This tradition reflects the rich and symbolic festivities of Christmas in Iraq.


In Jordan, Christians comprise about 6 percent of the 11.3 million population of the country. Despite the minority representation, Christmas Day holds significance and is officially recognized as a public holiday.

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

The celebration of Christmas in Jordan typically involves church services, family gatherings, and exchanging greetings and well-wishes. The Christian community in Jordan contributes to the nation's diverse cultural fabric, with Christmas serving as a moment for unity and cultural appreciation within the country.


In Lebanon, where approximately 45 percent of the population is Christian, Christmas is a time of unity and celebration. The festive spirit fills the country, adorning houses, streets, malls, and shops with vibrant decorations.

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

People in Lebanon highly value family gatherings during this season, emphasizing the importance of togetherness. In the true spirit of giving, young adults often make visits, distributing food packages, yule logs, and oven-baked chicken on the night before Christmas, reflecting the resilient and caring nature of the Lebanese people during the holiday season.


In Morocco, Christmas isn't recognized as an official holiday. However, within the Christian community, December is a time of reflection and outreach. Churches hold gatherings where the focus is on the significance of Christmas and spreading the message of God's reconciliation.

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

The season is an opportunity for fellowship and welcoming new believers, fostering a sense of community and support. Additionally, activities like devotions, games, shared meals, and exchanging updates strengthen bonds among the community. As part of their outreach, there's a spirit of giving, with the distribution of food packages and winter clothing to those in need, emphasizing the importance of generosity during the holiday season.


In Sudan, Christmas carries beautiful traditions rooted in cultural celebrations of crops, harvests, and tribal ceremonies. Over time, these traditions evolved with the rise of Christianity, shifting songs' lyrics and dances to honor Christ instead of influential figures or harvests.

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

Sudanese churches organize vibrant processions featuring preaching, singing praises, and enthusiastic participation from everyone. As part of the festivities, locals engage in door-to-door greetings, spreading Christmas cheer throughout the community. Home and church decorations are adorned with flowers, new curtains, and vibrant paintings symbolizing the essence of Christmas. The celebration continues with lively song, dance, and colorful outfits, while some churches prepare feasts, inviting different denominations to join in the joyous celebrations.


In Syria, particularly in Damascus, the Christmas spirit comes alive through vibrant celebrations. Families and crowds gather at the Christmas carnival, filled with dancing, singing, and marveling at the country's tallest Christmas tree. Traditional Christian songs like 'jawfiya' echo through the air, complemented by the making of special Christmas desserts, including marsham cookies.

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

Across Syria's Christian communities, churches and streets shimmer with festive decorations, showcasing nativity scenes beneath sparkling Christmas trees. During this season of giving, acts of generosity abound, with the distribution of food packages to families, containing essentials like oil, flour, coffee, candied almonds, and delightful Christmas treats.

UAE (United Arab Emirates)

In the UAE, especially in cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, signs of Christmas emerge through grand decorations in malls and hotels. Notably, the Dubai Mall showcased the world's largest Christmas bauble ornament in 2018, earning a Guinness World Record. Despite Christmas not being an official holiday in this primarily Islamic country, around 13% of the population, mainly expatriates, celebrate the occasion.

Christmas Traditions in the Arab World

The Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi boasts the world's most expensive Christmas tree, adorned with decorations worth millions of dollars. Interestingly, more Emiratis are embracing Christmas traditions, including decorating homes with Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, and gathering for festive meals.


In Yemen, the celebration of Christmas holds significance as families take to the streets to distribute gifts, sharing the joy of the occasion. Amidst the festivities, traditional Yemeni dishes like Aseed, Salta, and Kabsa grace the tables, marking the holiday with cultural culinary delights.

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