DAMASCUS: The usual festive atmosphere of Christmas has notably dimmed in Syria’s cities this year as the country’s main churches opt for prayers and solidarity with Palestinians enduring the ongoing Israeli bombardments in Gaza. In the northern city of Aleppo, the central district of Azizia, typically vibrant with a bustling festive market and a grand Christmas tree, now stands nearly empty without any visible Christmas decorations.
The Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Mor Dionysius Antoine Shahda, expressed the reason behind the somber mood, stating, “In Palestine, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, people are suffering.” The decision to cancel official celebrations and receptions in churches across Syria was made in solidarity with the victims of the Israeli forces’ bombing in Gaza, a move echoed by leaders of three major Syrian churches—the Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, and Melkite Greek Catholic fathers.
No Christmas Celebrations in Syria
A joint statement from the fathers conveyed their apology for not receiving Christmas and New Year greetings, citing the current circumstances, particularly the situation in Gaza. Instead of elaborate festivities, the churches will limit celebrations to religious ceremonies and prayers.
The health ministry in Gaza reported that more than 20,424 people have lost their lives in the territory since Israel launched its extensive air and ground offensive on October 7. The toll includes a significant number of women and children, highlighting the humanitarian impact of the conflict. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees emphasizes the absence of safe places in the Palestinian enclave due to the ongoing Israeli military campaign.
Festivities are restrained, with a lone market and modest decorations at the Greek Orthodox Mariamite Cathedral. Damascus resident Rachel Haddad, reflecting on the challenging year, remarked, “This year was very sad. It began with the earthquake and ended with the Gaza war.”