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Iranian Christians Celebrate Christmas

By Soudabeh Sadigh
Iranian Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in a somewhat similar fashion as it is celebrated around the world.
Iranian churches are filled with Christians
joining to celebrate Christmas
Picture Courtesy of Fars News Agency
Tehran, 25 December 2006 (CHN) -- Decorated Christmas trees might not be seen in every corner of Iran these days, but the occasion is celebrated by Iranian Christians every year. This year, the Iranian Christians have once again prepared themselves to celebrate the birth of Christ in their homeland by decorating Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, and attending services.
According to Albert Kochoei, chairman of Assyrian Association of Tehran or Motva d’ Tehran, considering that Jesus Christ was the messenger of peace and love, this year Iranian Christians will pray for the peace and happiness to prevail in the world.
A number of Christian denominations still live in Iran today and include Assyrians, Armenians, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical Christians. Although a minority religious group in Iran, Christians of Iran are free to practice their religion and perform their religious rituals.
Christianity arrived in Iran during the Parthian dynastic period (248 BC- 224 AD). Parthian kings showed great tolerance toward other religions and Christianity gradually spread in various parts of the Persian Empire.  
The celebration of Christmas on the 25th of December is said to have originated in ancient Persia and Mithraism and has its roots in the Mithraist festival of Yalda, the celebration of the birth of Sun God, Mithra, on the eve of the first day of the winter which falls on 21st of December.
Over the centuries Mithraism spread to Greece and Ancient Rome via Asia Minor, gaining popularity within the ranks of the Roman army. In the 4th century AD as a result of errors made in calculating leap years and dates, the birthday of Mithra was transferred to 25th of December. Until then, Christ’s birthday had been celebrated on January 6th by all branches of the Christian Church. However, with the cult of Mithra still popular in Roman Europe, the Christian Church adopted many of the Mithraic rituals and proclaimed 25th of December as the official birthday of Christ. Today the Armenian and Eastern Orthodox Churches continue to celebrate January 6th, as Christ’s birthday.
“Except for Armenian Christians, other Christian groups in Iran celebrate 25th of December as the birthday of Jesus. Holding mass prayers is another ritual that is performed on Christmas Eve in most Iranian churches,” said Kochoei.
According to Dr. Ahmad Nourizadeh who has done a lot of research on the history of Christians, particularly Armenians in Iran, although Iranian Armenians who make up the majority of the country’s Christian population take January 6th as the birth of Christ, large numbers of Iranian Christians also celebrate the 25th of December along with other Christians in the world.
Sending an open message to the Christians of the world on the eve of the auspicious occasion of Christmas, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated them on the birthday of “messenger of love and friendship.”
Also to mark the arrival of the Christian New Year, different programs are organized to be held in the museum of Tehran’s Sa’ad Abad Palace from 2-4 of January 2007.
Merry Christmas!

... Payvand News - 12/26/06 ... --

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