Christmas in Syria
I have a dear friend, “L”, who is a devoted Christian, wife and mother of two young kids, university-trained in finance, and a Syrian living in Homs. I have asked her to share with us her experience–past and present–of Christmas in Syria.
I have always loved Christmas since I was a little child. Christmas was and still my favorite season. Allow me to tell you about Christmas in Syria.
We, as Christians, used to celebrate Christmas freely in our Neighborhood in the old city of Homs. Preparations would start at the beginning of December. Lights would fill the streets and balconies. All houses and most shops would be decorated with Christmas decorations. Streets would be crowded with people, kids and even elderly to enjoy the Christmas spirit and to buy new clothes ,sweets and desert for the coming holiday. We had seven old churches in our neighborhood. All of them would have choirs celebrating Christmas at different timing so we could attend them all. It was a full schedule month.
On the Christmas eve, families would gather with some relatives, friends or neighbors to have dinner, drink wine ,enjoy the night together and of course exchange presents. Others would go to parties in restaurants or hotels and come back to their homes at 4 or 5 am without worrying at all. There was many parties for kids with Santa clause distributing presents in addition to festivals. We used to go the church to pray with our families and relatives. People would visit their relatives and friends to congratulate them in Christmas. Simply, we enjoyed and celebrated Christmas safely.
Unfortunately, all of that has gone with the war. The last Christmas we had in Homs was terrifying. People were afraid to light streets or balconies and even their homes .Instead of Christmas songs and hymns there were sounds of bombing, shells and shooting. The only present we would ask Santa for was staying alive. On 26/2/2012 the majority of the inhabitants fled their homes seeking safety including us. Since then, Christmas is different in my neighborhood. Houses got empty of the kids laughter. Darkness was everywhere, churches were destroyed by terrorists. My neighborhood turned into a place of ghosts.
With all the losses, displacement and poverty caused by war, it became kind of impossible to celebrate Christmas for some families. Many families migrated, or have one -at least- of its member left. Families got apart. For me, we still celebrate Christmas. I have decorated a Christmas tree with some toys so my precious kids would enjoy the Christmas spirit. But I miss the old details .I miss my sisters being around. I miss some of our beloved ones as most of them left the country or were displaced to a very far area. I miss our prayers and celebrations in our churches in the neighborhood.
I was sad to read my seven year-old son’s letter to Santa. My son wrote :“Dear Santa, I wish you can stop the war in Syria so I can celebrate with my aunts. I wish you can stop the war in Syria so we can have electricity and we can lighten our Christmas tree. Please don’t forget my present which is a car with a remote control. With love”.
I hope this Christmas will bring us peace and heal our beloved country from terror. I hope it will be a new born for beautiful but suffering Syria to the way of salvation. Dear Santa, please bring us our OLD SYRIA back!!!