As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is also observed in Iran. Iranians go to shops and buy Christmas gift and accessories in Tehran.
There are about 150,000 Christians living in Iran, most of them Armenians. They mark the holiday at home and in churches across the country. In fact, many Muslim families have adopted some Christmas customs, buying gifts for children and decorating their homes with Christmas trees.
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.
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 Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and even religious cities such as Mashhad.