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Syria - Christmas traditions & customs

In Syria on December 6, a special Mass is is held in churches in honor of Saint Nicholas Thaumaturgus, who legend has said was a kind and generous man not disimilar to Saint Nicholas after who Santa Claus is modelled.

On Christmas Eve everyone in the family, carries a lit candle, to stand around an unlit bonfire outside their house. The youngest child usually the son of the family reads the Christmas story, after which the bonfire is lit. The way the flames spread shows the luck of the house in the coming year. When the fire burns, psalms are sung, and when it sinks, everyone leaps over the embers making wishes.

Early on Christmas morning everyone goes to Mass. At this Mass another bonfire is lit in the middle of the floor. While the wood is blazing, ancient hymns are sung and the celebrant carries a figure of the Christ Child around the building. After this the celebrant then touches the nearest person in a "touch of peace". This touch is passed from one to another until everyone has received it.

Christmas dinner is chicken, oranges, nuts and pastries. But it is on New Year's Day that children receive presents. They are brought their gifts by the youngest of the camels that carried the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem. The children leave water and hay outside the house of the camel. In the morning the water and hay are gone, replaced by presents.



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