As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is also observed in Iran.
There are about 150,000 Christians living in Iran, most of them Armenians, who celebrate Christmas in churches and at home.
Iran’s Christian Armenian minority has been storming the gift shops in Tehran, buying them out of all their ornaments, Santa figures and pine trees to hang in their stores and homes.
Christmas trees decorated with red, green and gold gift boxes placed behind shop windows or at the entrances of different shopping malls and hotels can be seen, especially in the Christian neighborhoods of Tehran.
Decorated trees, along with Nativity scenes of the Virgin Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, can also be seen in shops along Mirza Shirazi Avenue and Ostaad Nejatollahi (Villa Avenue) and its surrounding neighborhoods in central Tehran, where many Iranian Christians reside.
Some Iranian Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Years’ on Jan. 1, while Armenians celebrate Christmas at the same time as the Epiphany on Jan. 6.
Despite being a minority, Iran’s Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are recognized as established religious minorities and are represented in parliament, and also enjoy freedom to practice their religions and perform their religious rituals.
In recent years, municipal authorities have also put up banners celebrating the birth of Jesus on many main streets and at the St. Sarkis Armenian Church on Villa Avenue, where a service is held every year.
Unlike other countries in the region where public celebration of Christmas is limited to hotels frequented by foreigners, there is no such restriction in Tehran. The sale of Christmas ornaments, which during the first years of the Islamic Revolution was limited to Christian districts, can now be seen around town.
In fact, festive Christmas decoration and celebration take place throughout the country, specifically in major cities such as Esfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and even religious cities such as Mashhad.
Merry Christmas to all Christians in Iran and anywhere in the world
Images: Abdollah Jafari, IRNA