It’s the 23rd of December 2007 in Aleppo, one more day and it’s Christmas eve. But today, I’m invited to celebrate the friends Christmas eve at one of my closest friends house. I’m excited, It’s kind of my first Christmas eve at a friend’s house in Syria. I ring the bell, and the moment her family opens the door, I get this warm feeling of Home. A Syrian home never needs to be your own, to make it feel just like it. We take place to have lunch and the table is filled with exquisite dishes. Take a step in a Syrian house and you’ll discover a generosity you’ve never ever encountered. Her parents greet me like I’m a daughter and she treats me like a sister and we share talks and laughs and the happiness of each other’s company.
The evening comes, way too quickly and I embark home looking forward to visit my grandparents tomorrow. But tonight, we still need a few decorations for our tree, so my mother and I go around the shops to buy some, and, surrounded by all the beautiful Christmas ornaments, my eyes are shining as bright as those Christmas lights, reflecting the innocence that Christmas brings to our hearts.
It’s finally the 24th of december, and the streets are as crowded as ever and as much as Aleppo is always crowded, this symbol of unity between muslims and christians is so heartwarming and inspiring for the future of this country. My grandparents’ live in the christian street of Aleppo, ‘Al Aziziah’. So, the ambiance is even more Christmassy than anywhere else there and we love it. Everything feels so joyful and you can perceive the Christmas’ trees and their shining lights from all the windows of the city.
Mostly everyone celebrates Christmas and everyone for sure gets out of their way to wish it to their neighbors, friends and family.
We’re a big family, we’re the Syrian people.
There’s that store under my grandparents’ building who has Santa Claus standing with a bell, ringing it at every kid and giving them a little present putting the biggest smile on their face, I once was one of them, happy with my new Ninja turtle mug. But now I just watch from the balcony.
« Why does it smell so much like tangerine ? » Asks my mother from the kitchen, aiming my sister and I. We tell her we don’t know, but we actually do, it’s our fault, we’re placing the slices on the « sobba » (sobia) and « cooking » them with heat to eat them warm. It’s our new fun during this cold day of December at our grandparents’ house.
When dinner time comes, the streets are so silent, it feels just like Iftar, during days of Ramadan. That’s what’s amazing about Syria. Wherever you go, during religious celebrations, the streets are silent and empty and everybody is respectful of the moment, the whole spirit of being one people.
It’s the 25th of December Christmas is here now and most households are busy with the families and friends coming to wish a Merry Christmas. And, at night comes the time to gather in with friends at one place in the city, to wish everyone a Merry Christmas outside.
And, during this time, Christmas feels like a love celebration. Religious celebrations never separate us. Whether it’s Eid or Christmas, we’re endlessly, one people.
Those days, we’ve been yearning for them for the fourth Christmas now. For some having lost loved ones, others having to ‘celebrate‘ in refugee camps, or in the streets facing the war, this period is a memory so far gone. And, we, the Syrian people hold our hearts so tight to avoid feeling the pain spreading through the destruction of our country and death of our people. But our hope stays as strong as the love we feel for this place we call Home and we pray in our mosques and churches for peace to come.