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What Do They Call The Christmas Holiday In Egypt


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Henrie Presnell



Egypt, a land known for its rich history and ancient wonders, is a country that carries a deep cultural heritage. From the majestic pyramids to the exquisite temples, Egypt has fascinated the world for centuries. But beyond its architectural marvels, there is a lesser-known facet of Egypt that holds significance for many: its celebration of the Christmas holiday.


Christmas in Egypt is a unique blend of ancient traditions and modern-day festivities. The country has a diverse religious landscape, with Christianity being one of the major religions practiced by Egyptians. The Coptic Orthodox Church, which accounts for the majority of Christian Egyptians, follows its own traditions and customs when it comes to celebrating Christmas.


In this article, we will delve into the historical background of Christmas in Egypt, explore the traditions and celebrations observed in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and discover some unique customs that make Christmas in Egypt a truly special occasion.


Whether you are a traveler curious about the cultural nuances of Egypt or simply interested in expanding your knowledge of different holiday celebrations, this article will provide a comprehensive insight into what makes the Christmas holiday in Egypt truly remarkable.


Historical Background of Christmas in Egypt

The history of Christmas in Egypt dates back to the early years of Christianity. According to tradition, Christianity was introduced to Egypt by the Apostle Mark in the 1st century AD, making it one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Since then, the Coptic Orthodox Church has played a significant role in shaping the religious and cultural landscape of Egypt.


Before the arrival of Christianity, Egypt had its own religious beliefs and celebrations. The winter solstice, known as the “Festival of the Return of the Sun,” was a prominent event in ancient Egypt. It marked the end of the Nile flood and the return of longer days, symbolizing the revival of life and fertility.


When Christianity took hold in Egypt, the celebration of Christmas was integrated into the existing cultural fabric. Over time, the traditions evolved to reflect the unique Egyptian flavor while still maintaining the essence of the Christian holiday.


It is important to note that, unlike in many Western countries, Christmas is not a public holiday in Egypt. However, it remains a significant occasion for the Christian community and is widely celebrated by Coptic Orthodox Christians, as well as some Catholic and Protestant denominations.


The celebration of Christmas in Egypt is primarily centered around the Coptic Orthodox Church, which follows the Coptic calendar. This calendar observes different dates for Christmas and Easter than the Gregorian calendar commonly used in the Western world.


In the next section, we will explore the traditions and customs unique to the Coptic Orthodox Church’s celebration of Christmas in Egypt.


Coptic Orthodox Tradition

The Coptic Orthodox Church holds a deep-rooted and revered position in Egypt. It represents the largest Christian community in the country, with millions of faithful followers. The church follows its own liturgical calendar, which sets the dates for major Christian holidays, including Christmas.


According to the Coptic Orthodox tradition, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, following the Julian calendar. This date is known as “Eid Al-Gheta” in Arabic, which translates to “Feast of the Nativity.” The celebration begins with a period of fasting known as the “Holy Nativity Fast,” which lasts for 43 days and culminates on Christmas Eve.


During the Holy Nativity Fast, Coptic Orthodox Christians abstain from consuming any animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. This period of fasting is seen as a spiritual preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ and a time of repentance and self-reflection.


The eve of Christmas, known as “Kiahk Eve,” is marked by a special church service called the “Midnight Praise.” Coptic churches are beautifully adorned with vibrant decorations, icons, and candles. The liturgy is accompanied by hymns and chants, filling the air with a sense of reverence and joy. Following the service, families return home to break their fast with a festive meal.


One of the standout features of the Coptic Orthodox Christmas tradition is the role of the “Nativity Play.” It is a reenactment of the birth of Jesus Christ, performed by children and young adults. The play is a cherished tradition that brings the story of Christmas to life and serves as a reminder of the central message of love and redemption.


The Coptic Orthodox Church also places a strong emphasis on charity during the Christmas season. It is a time when communities come together to support the less fortunate through acts of kindness and generosity. Donations are made to those in need, and food and clothing are distributed to the underprivileged.


As we continue to explore the Christmas celebrations in Egypt, let us delve into the various customs and festivities that make this time of year truly special in the country.


Christmas Celebrations in Egypt

Christmas in Egypt is marked by a joyful and vibrant atmosphere. While the celebration is primarily observed by the Christian community, it is also embraced by many Egyptians of different faiths as a time of unity and festivities.


Although Christmas is not a public holiday in Egypt, many businesses and shops are adorned with colorful decorations, portraying a festive ambiance. Streets and neighborhoods are adorned with lights, ornaments, and Christmas trees, adding a touch of holiday cheer to the surroundings.


One of the notable traditions during Christmas in Egypt is the exchange of gifts among family and friends. It is customary for people to exchange presents as a way of expressing love, appreciation, and goodwill. The act of gift-giving is not limited to material items but can also include gestures of kindness and acts of service.


Christmas Eve is a significant part of the celebrations in Egypt. Families gather for a special meal known as “Fata” which consists of meat stew or soup, rice, and bread. After the meal, many Coptic Orthodox Christians attend the Midnight Mass service at their local church to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.


Another aspect of the Christmas celebrations in Egypt that brings joy to many are the vibrant Christmas markets and fairs. These markets offer a variety of goods, including handicrafts, traditional festive foods, and ornaments. Families and friends often visit these markets to enjoy the festive atmosphere and get into the holiday spirit.


The streets of Egypt come alive with music and joy during the Christmas season. Traditional Christmas carols, both in Arabic and English, can be heard in churches, homes, and even on the radio. People join in singing these carols, creating a sense of unity and shared celebration.


It’s important to note that Christmas in Egypt extends beyond religious boundaries. Many Muslims also take part in the festivities, joining their Christian friends and neighbors in the celebrations. This highlights the spirit of coexistence and harmony that defines the Egyptian society.


As we dive deeper into the Christmas traditions in Egypt, let’s explore some unique customs that are observed during this joyous time of year.


Unique Egyptian Customs and Traditions

Christmas in Egypt is a time when unique customs and traditions add a distinct Egyptian flavor to the celebrations. These traditions reflect the cultural heritage and historical significance of the country.


One of the notable customs is the display of the “Baramoune” tree. The Baramoune tree is a decorative tree made from palm leaves and adorned with colorful decorations. It is reminiscent of the palm branches that were used to welcome Jesus during his entry into Jerusalem. The Baramoune tree is usually placed in homes, churches, and public spaces to create a festive ambiance.


Another unique Egyptian tradition associated with Christmas is the “Ghobar” game. Ghobar is a board game that is played during the Christmas season. It is similar to the game of dice, where players take turns rolling dice and moving their tokens on the board. Ghobar is a favorite pastime for families and friends, adding a fun and competitive element to the holiday celebrations.


Egyptian cuisine plays a significant role in the Christmas festivities. Traditional dishes such as “Kahk” and “Feteer Meshaltet” are prepared and enjoyed during this time. Kahk is a sweet biscuit made with flour, butter, filled with nuts or dates, and covered with powdered sugar. Feteer Meshaltet is a flaky pastry that can be filled with various sweet or savory fillings. These delicacies are often shared with loved ones and offered to visitors as a gesture of hospitality.


One of the most prominent customs during the Christmas season in Egypt is the practice of “Taqsim Al-Ousboo,” which translates to “Sharing the Week.” This tradition involves inviting families and friends to one’s home for a day during the Christmas week. The host provides a meal and entertainment, creating a sense of community and togetherness.


It is also common for Egyptians, Christians, and Muslims alike, to visit Coptic Orthodox churches during the Christmas season. Many people take the opportunity to offer prayers and light candles, seeking blessings and spiritual guidance.


The blend of ancient Egyptian customs and Christian traditions makes Christmas in Egypt a truly unique and captivating experience. The preservation of these customs and their continuation throughout the generations showcases the cultural diversity and harmony found in Egyptian society.


Next, let’s explore the significance and rituals surrounding the Feast of Nativity, the culmination of the Christmas celebrations in Egypt.


The Feast of Nativity

The Feast of Nativity, also known as “Eid Al-Gheta” in Arabic, is the pinnacle of the Christmas celebrations in Egypt. It is a time when the birth of Jesus Christ is commemorated with deep reverence and joy.


The Feast of Nativity begins with the Midnight Mass service on Christmas Eve, where Coptic Orthodox Christians gather in their churches to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The liturgy is filled with hymns and prayers, and the church is adorned with beautiful decorations and illuminated by candlelight.


After the midnight service, families return home to partake in a festive meal known as “Eid El-Gheta.” The table is filled with an array of traditional dishes, including roasted meats, rice, vegetables, and various sweets and desserts. The meal is shared among family members, friends, and neighbors who come together to celebrate this joyous occasion.


Alongside the feast, a special dessert called “Basbousa” is often served during the Feast of Nativity. Basbousa is a sweet semolina cake soaked in a flavored syrup, such as rose or orange blossom. This delectable treat is a favorite among Egyptians and is enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.


During the Feast of Nativity, it is also customary for families to visit each other, exchange well wishes, and spread the joy of the season. Children often receive small gifts or money as a token of blessings. The streets and neighborhoods come alive with vibrant decorations, lights, and decorations, creating a festive atmosphere that reflects the spirit of the holiday.


Another unique aspect of the Feast of Nativity in Egypt is the tradition of lighting “Tisbeh” candles. Tisbeh candles are large, colorful candles that are decorated with drawings of angels, crosses, and other sacred symbols. These candles are lit during the celebration as a symbol of light, hope, and guidance, reflecting the significance of the birth of Jesus as the light of the world.


The Feast of Nativity continues for several days, during which Coptic Orthodox Christians attend church services, engage in acts of charity, and spend quality time with their loved ones. The holiday offers a time of reflection, gratitude, and renewed faith.


As the Feast of Nativity concludes the Christmas celebrations in Egypt, it serves as a reminder of the enduring traditions, deep spirituality, and profound sense of community that define the Christmas season in the country.



The Christmas holiday in Egypt is a captivating blend of ancient traditions, religious customs, and vibrant celebrations. It showcases the unique cultural heritage and deep spirituality found in the country.


With a history rooted in the early years of Christianity, Christmas in Egypt holds significant importance for the Coptic Orthodox community. The Coptic Orthodox Church follows its own calendar and traditions, which add a distinct flavor to the Christmas celebrations.


Throughout Egypt, the Christmas season is marked by colorful decorations, festive markets, and the exchange of gifts. Families gather for special meals, attend church services, and engage in acts of charity, reflecting the values of love, unity, and generosity.


Unique Egyptian customs, such as the display of the Baramoune tree, the Ghobar game, and the sharing of meals during the Christmas week, further enrich the celebrations. These traditions reflect the country’s cultural diversity and create a sense of community and togetherness.


The Feast of Nativity, the culmination of the Christmas celebrations, is a time of deep reverence and joy. It is marked by church services, festive meals shared among loved ones, and the lighting of Tisbeh candles, symbolizing light and hope.


While Christmas in Egypt may not be a public holiday, it is embraced by many Egyptians of different faiths as a time of unity, joy, and celebration. The preservation of traditions and the spirit of coexistence reflect the harmonious fabric of Egyptian society.


Whether you are a traveler experiencing the cultural nuances of Egypt or simply interested in exploring different holiday celebrations, the Christmas holiday in Egypt offers a unique and captivating experience. It is a time to embrace the rich history, spirituality, and vibrant customs that make Christmas in Egypt truly remarkable.