Egyptian Coptic Orthodox celebrate merry Christmas despite pandemic – Society – Egypt

In the first minutes of Friday, Coptic Orthodox Christians – who make up 90 percent of Egypt’s Christian population – broke their 43-day fast and celebrated Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.

This year’s celebration takes place against a backdrop of less stringent measures due to the coronavirus than last year, when Christmas Mass attendance was limited to a number of bishops and monks.

“Last year we were upset and didn’t feel much happiness from the [Christmas] festival because this happiness has always been linked to the church, ”Gamil told Ahram Online.

Like Orthodox churches around the world, the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt celebrates Christmas on January 7, according to the Julian calendar.

The festival comes nearly two weeks after most Western denominations, including Catholics and Protestants, held their celebrations on December 25.

The Julian calendar is now 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar and December 25 in the Julian system falls on January 7 in the Gregorian system.

Celebrating Coptic Christmas

Coptic Orthodox usually end Mass at midnight, but in recent years security forces have asked them to leave an hour or two earlier for security reasons.

This happened due to several terrorist attacks that followed the June 30 revolution in 2013 that targeted churches, members of the police and military, as well as other civilians, especially during the holidays. annual religious. Attacks, however, have declined dramatically in recent years.

Kamel Mourad, a Coptic Orthodox, told Ahram Online that he believes that the strengthening of security measures and the state’s victory over terrorism would lead to the demise of this security measure.

“Last year we only followed Masses on TV screens and even broke our fast early when Mass ended in the church we belong to,” Mourad said.

Ezzat Sameh, another Coptic Orthodox, told Ahram Online that the rituals during Christmas mass were not entirely canceled due to the coronavirus last year, but the priest’s sermon has become shorter and prayers have been done more quickly.

Over the past week, Egyptian Orthodox Christians have reserved online the limited number of places available to attend Mass on Christmas Eve.

Sameh says he may not be able to attend mass this year “although it is the best day of the year” because he fears he is spreading the coronavirus to his family.

The joy of the Christmas season

“Christmas Eve is a time of real joy,” Mourad said, saying the coronavirus “has failed to spoil our happiness”.

Coptic devotees in Egypt are very advanced before Christmas, where they are allowed to eat fish and other foods, but they must refrain from dairy, poultry, and meat.

“We are flooding the streets to buy new clothes and some people are filling their homes with balloons and happy decorations. We cook delicious, creamy, and even expensive food to break our fast. Christmas Eve is always a day full of joy and fun, ”Mourad said.

“On this day, you can find everything you dream of on the tables: chicken, meat, turkey, macarona bechamel (a derivative of lasagna with a thick white sauce), chicken strand, meatballs and more.”

“On Christmas Day you can still eat the rest of the food that of course you couldn’t finish the night before,” Mourad said with a laugh.

Mourad said his family gathered at their grandparents’ house to celebrate Christmas after mass.

“This is no longer the case because of the coronavirus and so many beloved people have left our lives,” said Mourad, who is almost twenty years old.

Being on a paid holiday also makes you feel officially happy and satisfied, Mourad says.

Thursday, January 6, was a paid day off for workers in the public and private sectors to mark Coptic Orthodox Christmas Day, according to cabinet decrees.

The paid leave arrived on Thursday, instead of Friday, which is already a weekly paid holiday for most public and private sector employees nationwide.

Sameh says Christmas is a “special day that brings together many sweet memories that will leave you happy and childish.”

Gamil said she felt the joy of Christmas extended even throughout December when she saw Christmas trees and people wearing red clothes.

Share happiness

“We have a warm neighbor, our grandmother’s age, who keeps knocking on our door on Christmas Eve to give us sweet cakes,” said Gamil.

Mourad said he was always inundated with congratulations and wishes from his Muslim friends and neighbors.

“Our Muslim brothers are still here,” Mourad said, adding that he looked forward to spending time with his Muslim and Christian friends after mass, as he does every year.

Mostafa Khaled, a young Muslim who had many Coptic neighbors and whose old house overlooked a church for more than two decades, said that although he doesn’t have many memories with Christian brothers on Christmas, he still is. eager to share happy moments. with them all year round.

“Our [Christian] the brothers are always busy during festival times, but we want their days to be full of happiness, ”Khaled told Ahram Online.

“[The national fabric] includes Christians and Muslims, who share the same memories and the same fate, always laughing or crying for the same reasons, ”Khaled said.

Mass preparation

Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, is due to preside over Coptic Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve in the Church of the Nativity of Christ in the new administrative capital.

The Mass will be broadcast live on television and online.

Several churches across the country are accepting online reservations for in-person Christmas Mass at 50% capacity.

Masses will be held amid precautionary measures, including the requirement to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

At the end of December, Egyptian Interior Minister Mahmoud Tawfik raised the national security alert to the highest level ahead of the New Year and Christmas celebrations.

In a meeting with a number of his assistants and other senior security officials, Tawfik ordered maximum vigilance and stepped up measures to secure vital facilities, places of worship, tourist destinations, as well as roads leading to these institutions.

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