By Faranak Bakhtiari

Iran hosting Christmas celebrations for centuries

December 28, 2021 - 17:45

TEHRAN – Christmas has been celebrated for centuries in a country where 97 percent of its population is Muslim.

Around 300,000 to 370,000 Christians live in Iran, however, they are enjoying the freedom to perform their rituals and celebrate their festivities for four centuries.

Most of the Christians in Iran are Armenians who have lived here for centuries. Assyrians, Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelical Christians constitute the rest of the Christians in Iran.

The Assyrians of ancient Iran converted to Christianity since its onset, particularly in the first to third centuries AD. Like most Christians around the world, Assyrians in Iran celebrate December 25 as the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ.

Assyrian Christians fast for 25 days before the birth of Christ, during which time they abstain from eating meat and dairy products. After December 25, they break their fast and hold Communion at church.

On December 25, Assyrian people go to church to visit Assyrian clergies and wish them a happy Christmas, and the next day, it is the clergies who go to visit their fellow believers.

Unlike all other Christians who consider January 1 as the beginning of the new year, Armenians follow the Oriental Orthodox denomination of Christianity and accordingly, celebrate Christmas on January 6, concurrent with the Epiphany.

In fact, Christmas decorations and celebrations take place throughout the country, specifically in major cities such as Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, and even religious cities such as Mashhad. They mainly gather in the Majidieh neighborhood in Tehran, and the Jolfa neighborhood in Isfahan.

Since the time of Shah Abbas in 1014 AH, Armenians moved from Jolfa located near the Aras River to Isfahan and settled along the Zayandeh-Rud River. In memory of their former homeland, they named their new home Jolfa.

And New Year celebrations are also held every year at midnight on January 1 in the biggest and most beautiful church in Iran, Vank Cathedral.

Iranian Christians also have three members in the Majlis (Iranian parliament). The representative of the Northern Armenian Christians is elected by the votes of the Iranian-Christian citizens in the provinces of Tehran, East Azarbaijan, West Azarbaijan, Ardabil, Ilam, Khorasan, Zanjan, Semnan, Qazvin, Qom, Kordestan, Kermanshah, Golestan, Gilan, Mazandaran, Markazi, and Hamedan.

The representative of the Southern Armenian Christians also voted for the Armenian citizens living in the provinces of Isfahan, Yazd, Khuzestan, Fars, Kerman, Hormozgan, Sistan-Baluchestan, Lorestan, Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari, Bushehr, and Kohgiluyeh-Boyerahmad.

The other representative of Iranian Christians in the parliament is also elected Chaldean and Assyrian Christian citizens.

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