Christmas in Gaza has a different taste, despite the bitterness of the war and the siege the Israelis imposed there, the sweetness of people’s hearts win out.
In Gaza you can see no difference between Muslims or Christians; they all desire a free and united land. It’s also obvious how supportive they are of each other.
“Even our potentials aren’t high enough to do all we wish for, but we still enjoy Christmas. We have it all: love and caring surround us and that is what matters the most,” Rana Azzam, a Christian Palestinian from the Gaza Strip, expressed.
The 28 year old girl said, “I never had the chance to visit Bethlehem to practice pilgrimage or even to visit the holy church of nativity.” This makes Rana sad since she is in Palestine and only a few miles away from the world’s most holy land, and yet not allowed to visit.
Christians must ask and receive Israeli permission to visit Bethlehem or anywhere else, and young Christians rarely get approved. Lots of them refuse to publish their names or share their stories because they are worried about never receiving approval from Israel to leave Gaza.
“Our number isn’t high as Muslims, but this doesn’t mean we are having any kind of pressure. Actually, Muslims join our celebrations. I received greetings and good wishes from them even before my other Christian friends,” the young lady added.
During Christmas or any other part of the year, Christians are capable of practicing their celebrations without any annoyance from Muslims.
Christmas is very connected to New Year’s Eve. At this time of the year, churches are full with prayers. “There is a daily prayer called Tusa’aia for nine following days in the church. When we were kids, I remember that we used to have a special small Bazaar where many of us gathered to sell cookies and handmade Christmas stuff. Santa Claus was always there. Nowadays, Santa Claus still brings gifts for our kids to keep up the spirit. We also light our lovely Christmas trees while many Muslims join us too, “Azzam said.
Many Palestine Christians attend the ceremony to light the candles on Sunday Mass at the holy family church. On Dec. 24, many Christian families gather and celebrate, having light drinks and a special Christmas cake.
“Our prayers this Christmas, like every Christmas, are asking God for worldwide peace, for mercy, and a release from the occupation,” lovely Rana ended her talk.