About 15% of the Egyptian population are Christians, and they’re the only ones who celebrate Christmas as a religious festival. Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Coptic Orthodox Church follows the Coptic calendar, so Coptic Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on January 7th. The Armenian community in Egypt celebrates Christmas on January 6th.
According to the Coptic calendar, the month leading up to Christmas is Kiahk, the fourth month of the Coptic year. During this month, Coptic Christians sing worship songs on Saturday nights before Sunday services. The 43 days before Christmas, called Advent, lasts from November 25th to January 6th. During this time, Coptic Christians practice a special fast where they adhere to a strict vegan diet, called The Holy Nativity Fast. If some are too weak or ill to participate, they may be excused.
On Christmas Eve, January 6th, Coptic Christians attend a special liturgy or church service. The services normally start around 10PM and conclude shortly after midnight, but some last until dawn.
When the Christmas service ends, they return home to break their fast with big Christmas feasts. All the dishes contain beef, poultry, eggs, and all the other things they didn’t eat during the Advent fast. Fatta, a soup consisting of bread, rice, garlic, and boiled lamb meat, is a popular dish for this meal. On Christmas Day, people come together for parties and festivities. Some bring kahk, special sweet biscuits, to give as gifts.
Non-Christian Egyptians celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. Cities and homes are decorated with Christmas trees, festive colored lights, ornaments, garland, wreaths, and other decorations. Santa Claus is called Baba Noel, or Father Christmas. He climbs through windows and leaves presents for Children, who leave some kahk out for him in anticipation. On Christmas morning, people visit friends and family to celebrate Christmas together.
Holiday Traditions in Egypt
Video by Associated Press