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.
"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.