As a child, Christmas was like a month-long fairy tale. It was an amazing experience of senses and emotions: in colors, red, green and gold; in smells, of pine trees placed in our homes; the sounds, of bells, and of the bands walking around the alleys singing carols. Even when I slept, I dreamt of the gifts Santa Claus would leave for me beneath the tree. I’d wait all year for Christmas, and I hoped it would never end.
It is really like I was reborn every Christmas.
The meaning of Christmas
Christmas dresses the whole world in different clothing, exciting and unique. The spirit rises, and the soul opens up to the beauty of creation and mercy of God. All of our lives are touched by this holiday – through the walk to the church to attend services, the special foods, decorating the house and street – the festival enters consciousness in every possible way. This energy charges us for the whole year, until Christmas comes again.
Christmas is loaded with meaning. It is a celebration of inner unity, and peace with our environment. It is a festival of renewal that lifts the soul and spirit to the connection between us and our fellow humans, God and Jesus. It's time to pray with love for peace for all mankind.
Throughout the festival, we would hear the Christmas songs at home that spoke of this love, and the meaning of Jesus' birth. For me, the highlight of the festival's music were songs by Lebanese singer Fairuz, which I still love to this day. I consider her to be the queen of Arab music.
And how could I forget ... The gifts! The rustling of colorful wrappers, of chocolate filled with liqueur, was a treat we were allowed only in this holiday. In short, you can imagine how euphoric we were!
A Catholic and also an Orthodox?
The adults would tell us how they celebrated Christmas in childhood, and we listened to stories, and felt part of a never-ending chain, the chain of generations. In my house it was slightly different because my father is an Orthodox Christian and my mother a Catholic. They celebrate Christmas on different days. So, Christmas for us was longer than for everyone else! It was a real bonus.
A few days before the holiday we would build (with the help of my mother, of course) the scene of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, under the tree. We would hear Mom tell the story about Christ, born in a cave among the animals, not in splendor fit for a king. In the nights before Christmas I would wake up, and, with my bigger brothers and smaller sister, we would sit silently under the lit tree, staring at the magic inside the cave: the birth of Christ.
The Christmas tree
We live in the Old City in a narrow alley with no car access – that’s the situation in all of ancient Nazareth. So how would we get the big tree home? Well, Father would send one of the workers from Elbabour – on the back of a donkey, to our delight. We could not wait for the tree to be placed. We would begin to decorate it while it was on the floor. It would always be a very big tree. In the evening, when my father came home, we would lift it in place and keep decorating.
After a long night of work, the tree would be ready, and the house all decorated, just in time for the Catholic holiday, which comes before the Orthodox.
Our unique custom – germinating Christmas
Each year, two weeks before Christmas we would germinate various legumes, lentils, chickpeas, foul (broad beans), lupine, wheat and barley. I would grow them in dishes, putting them in the sun during the day, and in the evening bringing them in. The germinated beans were part of the nativity scene, filling the role of green grass near the cave. Everyone would follow this tradition in Nazareth; the soft sprouts added a sense of abundance, freshness and renewal, a sense that anything is possible.
Read More About: Christmas Day by Tony Kanaza