Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Merry Christmas," "Joyeux Noel" in French, and "I'D Miilad Said Oua Sana Saida" in Arabic
Tree Type: Cultural
Decorations: Egypt's tree at the Museum is designed to reflect both the ideals of the Coptic Church and Egyptian culture. The pyramids represent Egypt's antiquity while the ankh, the ancient Egyptian symbol for life, represents the blending of modernity and old customs in today's Egypt. The ankh also serves as a symbol of the cross for the Coptic Church, which follows the eastern rites of Christianity. It and the images of saints found on the Museum's Egyptian tree are traditional symbols of the Coptic Church.
Traditions: Christmas is preceded by forty days of fasting for strict members of the Coptic Church. Christians abstain from eating any kinds of animal products including meat, poultry and dairy during the month of December.
When Christmas Eve comes on the 6th of January, people go to church for the evening service dressed in new clothes and find hundreds of candles illuminating the building in honor of the candles Joseph lit to keep the Virgin Mary from catching cold on the night of the Nativity. At the conclusion of the service, the sound of bells tells families that their fasts are over and they make their way home for the traditional meal of fata (rice, garlic and boiled meat) and qurban (a biscuits marked with a cross and 12 dots representing Jesus' disciples).
Christmas morning is a time for visiting friends and family and for sharing a shortbread called kaik and a drink called shortbat. Egyptian celebrations of Christ's birth and the time the Holy Family spent in Egypt conclude that evening as families reflect on the Christmas season.