As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is also observed in Iran where Christians make up less than 0.2% of the country’s population.
Christmas trees decorated with red, green and gold gift boxes placed behind shop windows or at the entrances of shopping malls and hotels can be seen, especially in the Christian neighborhoods of Tehran.
Decorated trees, along with Nativity scenes of the Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, can also be seen in shops along Mirza Shirazi Avenue and Ostaad Nejatollahi (Villa Avenue) and its surrounding neighborhoods in central Tehran, where many Iranian Christians reside.
According to the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), over 130,00 Christians reside in Iran, most of whom are Armenians who are followers of the Oriental Orthodox branch of Christianity. Assyrians,Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical Christians make up the remainder of Iran’s Christian population.
Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.
The festive mood, however, is not just limited to the Christian neighborhoods of Tehran, as some shops,especially those in the northern and central parts of the city, dedicate at least some section of their shop windows to decorations such as candy canes,snow globes and Santa Claus figures.
Over the past decade,celebrating Christmas has become increasingly popular among young Iranians,regardless of their religion. Of course, the trend has a partly religious basis, as Muslims acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ and recognize him as one of God’s holy messengers. But another reason for taking part in Christmas celebrations seems to be rooted in the Iranian youth’s desire to “keep up with the rest of the world.”
Living In Tehran wishes you a very Happy Holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.