Hamas Attacked Israel, Christians in the Middle East Affected
On October 7, Hamas attacked Israel, causing a massacre targeted at civilians. Two and a half months later, Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, Syria, and other places have been affected by the attack. CNN reported that local leaders in Bethlehem chose to scale back Christmas festivities in solidarity with the suffering Palestinian population in Gaza. As a result, decorations have been removed, parades and religious celebrations canceled, and the traditional Christmas tree in Manger Square is absent. In Syria, Christmas cheer has also deserted the streets, and the annual Christian market in Aleppo is now empty.
The canceling of Christmas festivities is not universal across the region. In Turkey, media reports highlighted the festive atmosphere for Christmas, and in Dubai and Lebanon, there are plenty of signs of Christmas celebrations. However, in southern Lebanon, Christians have been affected by ongoing attacks by Iranian-backed Hezbollah, resulting in subdued Christmas festivities. Similarly, in Iran, Christmas is going ahead as usual, despite supporting the attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah.
In northern Iraq, Christmas is also continuing as expected, with the Erbil International Fair inaugurating the Christmas Festival. However, the Chaldean Patriarchate has canceled many events linked to Christmas due to various reasons, including the Gaza war, the removal of the patriarch from his role, and a massive fire that affected Christian victims in Bakhdida.
Christmas events have also been impacted in the West, with activists disrupting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting in New York to tie them to Gaza. The cancellation and toning down of Christmas festivities across different countries in the Middle East are a reflection of the impact of the Hamas attack on Israel and its aftermath.