Christmas in Iraq is celebrated with a public holiday every 25 December, as it is in a majority of countries around the world. This Christian festivity commemorates the birth of Jesus, and is part of a 22-28 day season in the Christian calendar known as Advent.
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Although Christmas Day has only been a public holiday in Iraq since 2008, Christmas traditions go back many centuries. Most of the country is Muslim, but the Christian community in Iraq has been there a very long time.
For the most part, Christmas is a time to visit friends, pray to God, attend church, and bond as a family. The holiday is not commercialised like in Western countries. Kids do get out of school for Christmas break, usually for a week.
Families gather on Christmas Eve to celebrate. Cookies and favourite foods are cooked for kids and for adults too if they are lucky! One child reads the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible while others present hold lit candles. There is a tradition followed by some that a pile of dry thorns is burnt up with the candle fire. As the bonfire rages, the family sings Christmas songs. Then, for good luck, they all jump on the ashes three times once the fire has died out. On Christmas Day, another bonfire is lit in the churchyard, and a parade takes place where people carry a statue of Baby Jesus.
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