In Iran, Muslim youth are 'even more excited about Christmas than Christians'

All photos taken in stores in Tehran by our Observer Meran Raji.
 
Christians make up less than 1 percent of Iran’s population. And yet the storefronts in Iran’s cities are full of Christmas decorations. So who is supposed to buy them? According to our Observers, the holiday has become very popular with Iranian youth, regardless of their religion.
 
In recent years, Iranian youth have not only taken to celebrating Christmas, they’ve also begun observing holidays popular in the Western world like Valentine’s Day and Halloween as well as revived many long-forgotten Iranian holidays, like Mehregan, an autumn harvest festival.
 
 
Contributors

"Before, shops were not allowed to sell Christmas decorations, except in Christian districts. Today, they’re sold everywhere"

Andre lives in Isfahan. He is Iranian and Christian.
 
Since the last elections, the social atmosphere is much more relaxed. In the years before, the government had become quite strict when it came to holidays, particularly Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Shops were not allowed to sell Christmas decorations, except in Christian districts. Today, they’re sold everywhere.
 
People here watch a lot of foreign channels on satellite TV, and they see that all over the world, people are in the Christmas mood. Nobody here wants to be behind the rest of the world, particularly the youth who want to stay up to date with international trends. I feel that my non-Christian friends are more enthusiastic about celebrating Christmas than Christians like me! But they look to us to see what we do, and do the same thing, like buying Christmas trees and presents.
 
 
Of course, non-Christians mostly look at it as a time to have a party. Many of them don’t even know the story behind Christmas. It’s interesting to note that unlike certain Muslim countries, I have never heard any Muslim Iranian I know say that Muslims should not be celebrating a Christmas holiday. Also, while Christians still represent only a small percentage of the population, there are more and more reports of Christian converts in Iran, so naturally people are starting to learn more about it. [Editor’s Note: Christian converts have been arrested on a number of occasions, however, according to human rights campaigners.]
 
Not all Christians in Iran celebrate Christmas, however. Orthodox Armenians go to mass, but they do not celebrate Christmas beyond that. They celebrate the last day of December, when Christ was baptised.
 
Myself, I'm not interested in participating in Islamic celebrations. But I do participate in ancient Persian celebrations, such as Chahar Shanbeh Souri [a celebration with fireworks on the last Wednesday of the Persian calendar year] and Nowruz [the Persian New Year]. Holidays bring us Iranians together – especially the younger generation.
 

Comments

Dear Writer, we do not have

Dear Writer, we do not have Muslim youth in Iran. We just have youth. They want to be happy as all the youth around the world, for different reasons. Since Christmas means condemning rigid belief of Islam, showing passion for this occasion means a little middle finger to the government, without risking a lot. Those real Muslims in absolute minority, hate everything happy or at least they pretend they hate it- since many of them are paid or have some kind of interest. Being sad is a concept of Islam esp. Shiism. Once the religion is not mandatory in Iran, You will find no Muslims there!

happy to read this

i dont think people should be forbidden to celebrate. people can have different religion but we all have gods. Also for us christians, the meaning of christmas is changing. For me, I now celebrate christmas because I know my nephew, younger brothers and nieces are all excited to get their gifts. I always make an effort to pack their gifts even if I am not in the mood because they are expecting to open their gifts on christmas eve, I dont want to disappoint them. Their happy faces make my Christmas enjoyable as well.

In Iran, Muslim youth are excited about Christmas

Ironically, it's probably easier to put up a display there than it is here.

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