5 Things Palestinians Look Forward to on Christmas
As this is my son’s first Christmas, it’s obviously very exciting for us! Thinking of how my son will grow up near the town where Christmas began makes me think of all the wonderful things about Christmas in Palestine. I know there are many more things than I can list in this post, but here are a few that come to mind during this Christmas season.
1) Lighting of the tree
One of the happiest annual occasions in Palestine is the lighting of the Christmas tree. Traditionally this event takes place at the Nativity Church square. In recent years, however, other cities such as Jerusalem and Ramallah have had Christmas tree lighting events as well. This is a moment that not only Christian Palestinians look forward to, but many Muslims as well. This occasion is usually accompanied by speeches from the city mayor, or some government officials who wish Christians a Merry Christmas. There’s also live Christmas caroling after the lightning of the tree, which helps usher in the holiday season with an uplifting Christmas spirit.
Each year, most Palestinian Christians who live in the West Bank get permission to go to Jerusalem, and other places within Israel. This is something that Palestinians looks forward to, because it means they can go visit relatives they haven’t seen all year, or even take trips to the sea and places like Nazareth, Haifa and the Galilee.
3) New clothing
For many Palestinian Christians, Christmas and Easter are the only times in the year that parents can afford to buy their children new outfits to wear. This is usually exciting for kids who get to show off their new clothes and shoes to their cousins and friends.
4) Christmas bazaars
In Jerusalem and the West Bank, all churches have a Christmas bazaar for around one week, where Christmas decorations, food and other items are sold for a small profit, which goes to the needy.
5) Santa Claus
Many Palestinians, especially Muslims, think Christmas is about Santa. They know that Christmas is a time where Santa Claus goes around and gives out gifts. And although as Christians we like them to know the whole story of Christmas, we also know that dressing up as Santa and giving out gifts to Muslim children is one way of demonstrating the spirit of the holiday.
Every year, my husband dresses up as Santa Claus and goes around his Muslim friends’ houses, and gives out gifts to their children. It’s a tradition that my husband has brought me into, as last year, I helped him pick out the gifts, and we both went around to his friends’ homes. This year, I’m really excited that we get to take our son around with us while my Santa-dressed-husband gives out gifts and makes children so very happy!
These are five things I look forward to this Christmas, and I’m excited to include my son in them as well. If you can come to Palestine this Christmas, I welcome you. If you see a small family of three at a tree-lighting ceremony, it just might be me and my family. Merry Christmas.