The story of Christmas around the world > 2

The gates of the homes of Syrian Christians are locked on Christmas Eve, commemorating persecutions of the past, when worship had to be held in secret. Family members carry a lit candle and stand around an unlit bonfire in their yard. The youngest member reads the Christmas story, and the bonfire is lit, after which hymns are sung and everyone steps on the dying embers to make a wish. 

Another bonfire is lit in the middle of church floor on Christmas morning and ancient hymns are sung as the celebrant of the Eucharist carries a figure of the infant Jesus around the room. The celebrant touches the nearest person in a sign of peace that is passed from one to another until everyone has received it.

The traditional Christmas dinner consists of roast chicken, nuts, dates, and pastries.

There is more emphasis on prayer and communal gatherings among the five million Christians in this predominantly Sunni Muslim nation. Nonetheless, Syrian children receive gifts at Epiphany from the smallest camel of the Wise Men’s caravan. Legend has it that when the Wise Men traveled to Bethlehem, it was the smallest camel who refused to give up the long journey and was most eager to see the Christ Child. The story emphasizes how the faith of the smallest and most vulnerable can, at times, be greater than most.