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 Culture 13

Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve

In Surayt, we refer to Christmas with Ceḏo zcuro. It is used in relation to Easter, Ceḏo rabo. As the name indicates, Christmas is referred to as the ‘Small Feast’ and Easter as the ‘Great Feast’.  Easter may be referred to as Ceḏo rabo (Great Feast) because in the eyes of the believers it may have more significance. Through Jesus’ crucifixion, he realised salvation for the human race; his sacrifice paid for the debts of the believers.

In the days before Christmas, the believers attend church to receive Holy Communion, preparing themselves for Christmas. Families clean their houses and mothers bake Kliča, a sweet baked good with spices to be shared with family and friends who visit them during the Christmas days. Traditionally, Syriacs would visit as many families and friends as possible during the Christmas days, to wish them a Happy Christmas. In the diaspora, this tradition is weakening and often people visit only the closest family members and neighbours. In the old days, kids would also knock on the doors of other villagers and come back at the end of the day with a full bag of sweets; that tradition too, has weakened. Instead, family members buy Christmas presents for their children, following local Western traditions.

New Year’s Eve in Turabdin was celebrated quietly. Children would colour their faces with charcoal and knock on the door of the villagers. In Mzizaḥ, after the inhabitants opened the door, the children would say aloud: riša d-šato, riša d-šato, u ḥa d obe aloho abro obe le w u ḥa d lobe kurfo duṣo le’ (The beginning of the year, the beginning of the year, may God give a son to the one who gives and may the snake bite the one who does not give). Families who were well off would throw the kids some money and other families would give them sweets.