Christmas in Iran

Celebration of Christmas in Iran, Where Traditions Blend with Cultural Diversity

The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, known as Christmas, is celebrated worldwide, including in Iran. Considering that the official religion of Iranians is Islam, Christians in Iran, mostly Armenians, are a minority comprising approximately 400,000 individuals who primarily reside in cities such as Urmia, Tabriz, Tehran and Isfahan.

It is interesting to know that the date of Christmas in Iran is close to the Iranian Yalda night (the longest night of the year) and many Iranian Christians celebrate these two holidays together.

The Date of Christmas in Iran

Christmas Celebration In Iran
Christmas Celebration in Iran

This celebration is officially held on December 25th, but in addition to this date, a similar celebration is also held by Iranian Armenians on January 6th, which is about 10 days after the official date. The reasons date back centuries. Because January 6th is actually the day of the birth of Jesus Christ according to Julian calendar, which took place on the same day as the Christmas celebration.

Although the date of Christmas has changed over time, some Armenians Orthodox Christians, still celebrate Christmas on January 6th.

Customs and Traditions of Christmas

Like any other festival or religious occasion, specific customs are observed on this day, some of which are common worldwide, while others may vary in certain details. Below are a few well-known customs and traditions of Christmas celebrated in Iran and around the world.

Special Christmas Decorations

Christmas Decoration In Iran
Christmas Decoration in Iran

One of the most important and popular customs on this day is decorating the Christmas tree. As you may know, the tree used for Christmas is typically a pine tree and serves as a symbol of nature that has taken on a sacred significance. It’s worth noting that the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree originates from German culture. The tradition of decorating pine trees is also common among Iranian Christians. In the decorations of this day, the colors red (symbolizing the pure blood of Christ), green (symbolizing eternal life), and gold (symbolizing the wealth and kingship of Jesus Christ) are widely used.

Some of the items used in the decorations of this night include bells, candles, staffs, garlands, tall socks, flower crowns, snow globes, and hanging lights. Decorating large socks has its roots in an ancient tradition. The belief was that Santa Claus enters through the chimney and places a gift made of gold inside the sock. However, many parents fill the socks with gifts while their child is asleep, instead of Santa Claus. Next, I will introduce Santa Claus.

Santa Claus and His Beautiful Gifts

Santa Claus In Christmas Culture
Santa Claus in Christmas Culture

Santa Claus is a beloved character derived from ancient Western legends and a monk named “St. Nicholas.” Mr. Nicholas was a generous person who spent his wealth helping the poor. Santa Claus, a kind-hearted figure with a white beard and a red outfit, is also very generous, and during the late hours of Christmas Eve, he visits the homes of Christians to bring gifts for children. These gifts can be candies, dolls, or any other toys.

Christmas Greeting Cards

Christmas Greeting Cards
Christmas Greeting Cards

One of the most charming gifts of Christmas are the special Christmas greeting cards that Christians congratulate each other on this holiday, a few weeks before Christmas.

Some Christians also write their own thoughts and feelings, especially regarding the person they are sending the card to.
Christmas greeting cards are available in Iran in both English and Persian languages.

Christmas Visits and Gatherings

Christmas Visits And Gatherings
Christmas Visits and Gatherings

One of the customs of Christians on this day is to gather together and exchange gifts. Christians in Iran also participate in this tradition. Some Armenians have the custom of going to church after dinner and engaging in fellowship and conversation with each other. Christians usually spend the night in the church until midnight. Interestingly, at midnight at 12:00 a.m. everyone in the church falls silent and immerses themselves in prayer and worship of God.

Special Christmas Foods and Treats

Christmas Foods And Treats
Christmas Foods and Treats

One of the most famous and world-renowned dishes of the night is the stuffed turkey.

However, depending on the country, there are other traditional dishes, such as fish in Italy or roasted lamb in Germany. Popular dishes for Iranian Christmas celebrations include vegetable rice with fish, vegetable frittata (kookoo sabzi), and harissa, a type of chicken and barley stew.

Gingerbread is one of the delicious sweets for Christmas that is made using honey, cinnamon, sugar and ginger, which usually shaped like a laughing doll. Other delicious foods on this day include cakes, cookies, and candy canes that are made for Christmas all over the world.

Two popular Christmas sweets among Iranian Christians are “Pirok” and “Gata“.
Gata is a dry pastry filled with walnuts. Pirok is a pastry filled with a nut mixture and often topped with marmalade.

Christmas in Different Cities of Iran

Armenian Of Iran Celebrating Christmas
Armenian of Iran Celebrating Christmas

In Tehran, you can experience the Christmas atmosphere by walking on Mirzaye Shirazi Street. The shops in this area display Christmas decorations and even special Christmas trees behind their windows for sale. Majidiyeh, Narmak, and Vanak are also other Armenian-inhabited areas in Iran. Two Minas Churches are located in the Ararat neighborhood of Vanak, and the St. Sarkis Church is situated on Karim Khan Street in Tehran.

Isfahan is another city in Iran with an Armenian population, and its Jolfa neighborhood is well-known for its Armenian community. The Vank Church is also located in this area and hosts Christian gatherings on Christmas night.

In the northwestern region of Iran, which includes West and East Azerbaijan, the presence of Christians can be felt. Interestingly, the discovered artifacts testify to the existence of approximately 187 ancient churches in this region. Some of these churches date back to the Safavid era and the 9th to 16th centuries AD.

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Christmas In Iran

I hope this article has addressed some of your questions regarding the celebration of Christmas and its customs in Iran. If you are among those who have relatives and family members in Iran and wish to be with them on this day or if you are in Iran for any reason on Christmas day, you can experience an unforgettable and enjoyable Christmas. If you would like to learn more about Iranian culture and ethnicity, please read other articles on OrientTrips. If you need more information about a particular culture or region in Iran, we can help. Send us a message through this website and in the “Contact Us” section.

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Zeinab Khadivi

Hello, I'm Zizi Khadiv. I love traveling and socializing with people, and I really enjoy introducing the beauties of my country and the hospitable people of Iran to people from other countries. That's why I love being a tour guide.

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