Christmas in Egypt

By: Katie Joseph and Sarah McGowan

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Our Experience in Egypt for Christmas:

When we traveled to Cairo, Egypt, we stayed with our friend, Bahiti and her family. We got to celebrate Christmas with them. While we were there we learned that Christmas is celebrated on January 7. Since only about 15% of the Egyptian population is Christian, not many people actually celebrate the holiday. Majority of the Christians in Egypt belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, including Bahiti and her family. They celebrate Christmas in a different, unique way compared to how we do in the United States. For the Coptic religion, the month leading up to Christmas is called Kiahk. Every Saturday night before the service on Sunday, we sang special prayer. 43 days before the holiday, November 25th, they begin a special fast that is basically like eating a strict vegan diet, and is called the Holy Navity Fast. This is very different than the holidays in America because instead of fasting before Christmas, we celebrate Thanksgiving which is the exact opposite. On Christmas Eve, January 6th, we attended church for a special service. The service started at around 10:30 but we arrived at the church about 45 minutes early so we could socialize, which is a pretty common thing to do. Our service ended at around midnight but Bahiti told me that some services can go until 4 am! After the service finished we headed back home and ate a big Christmas dinner. All the foods typical contained: eggs, meat, dairy, all the things that were not allowed during the fast. On January 7th, people go to other people's homes to celebrate, similar to how we celebrate in the United States. Everyone brings homemade "kaik," which is an Egyptian shortbread.

Christmas is important to Coptic Egyptians because of the time that Jesus spent there with the Holy Family. St. Mark introduced Christianity to Egypt and is considered the first pope of Egypt. Egyptians celebrate Christmas on a different day because they follow a different calander.


Our friend, Bahiti, is 16 years old and lives in Cairo, Egypt. She has long dark hair and choses to not wear a hijab because she does not like the way it looks. She is tall and very skinny and has tan skin. She has a great personality and loves to make people laugh. She is fluent in Arabic and knows English but not to the point where she can hold a long conversation. She attends her local high school and loves to hang out with her friends.

How Egypt Looks During Christmas

Although only 15% are Christians, many Egyptians are starting to celebrate this holiday and it is becoming more commercialized by selling trees and decorating. The Coptic Christian Church looks similar to Christian churches in the U.S.
Egypt Orthodox Christmas: Copts hold midnight mass amid subdued celebrations

Similarities and Differences Between American Christmas

The Christians in Egypt fast for a month before by eating a vegan diet. However in America we celebrate Thanksgiving within the month before Christmas and that is basically the exact opposite of fasting.

In both countries there is a church service the night before, but the service in Egypt is typically much later in the night then in America.

Also, in both countries it is very common to go to other people's houses and celebrate the holiday.

Finally, the idea of Santa Claus exists in both countries, however in Egypt Santa is called Baba Noël, which means Father Christmas.