How Christians in Iraq celebrate Christmas

by Dunja Hayali

Das Deutsche in der Welt (Ausgabe IV/2010)


This also happens in our family: the festivities begin on 25 December. The Christians go to church in the morning. After mass, the men meet for coffee, they eat sweets and play “tavli" or backgammon. The women go home to prepare the meal and enjoy being among themselves for a change. In the evening, they traditionally eat "Kuba-Qaisi", rice dumplings stuffed with mutton in a sweet and sour sauce. It is accompanied by dried fruits, dates or apricots.

When I was a child, my parents and I often visited our family in Iraq over Christmas. Every year there was the same artificial and magnificently decorated Christmas tree. I had never seen so much tinsel and so many baubles before. But notably no presents for us children sat underneath the tree. At the most, we were given clothes from our older siblings or cousins. But that doesn't mean there weren’t presents at all. Father Christmas also comes in Iraq, but turns up on New Year's Eve. His name is "Noel Baba" and he gives the children some goodies. But the presents were not as important as the family gathering itself. These Christmases were always special to me. When my parents came to Germany in 1956, they adopted German customs. Since then, our family has had an Advent wreath, raclette or fondue and, of course, presents.

As told to Sara Santarelli



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