We’re in the midst of July in Egypt, it is hotter than the sun and my forehead drips of sweat drops. I sigh and concentrate on the conversation taking place; I am at my close friend’s house. We’re discussing Ramadan TV shows, what’s good, what sucks. We’re moving out of my old house so our TV has been the last thing on our minds. I am not relating to what they’re saying and hope they change the subject to something I can contribute to so that I can ignore my growing thirst. I try to console myself with the idea that all the other Christians in the room are also fasting in union with our friends during their holy month. It works, and I distract myself with the episode they just turned on. I notice there is only one hour left till we can eat and drink, I sigh in relief this time and relax into my seat, enjoying the good company.
Christmas celebrations at MIU
December 15 is a long tiring for MIU’s club MMC members that have taken it upon themselves to provide the most glamorous and numerous Christmas decorations. The next day, is a festive day, in union with other clubs such as Utopia and Tuners, the Christmas spirit is at its best. Food and music, the best way for Egyptian celebration, filled the air. However, the impulse to follow blindly through a celebration has taken over for most of the students. Many misconceptions have build up for the majority of students, leaving the Christian life tainted with movie like faux stereotypes. The origin of Christmas itself is unknown to many, making the celebration just about the party than about the holiday itself. The situation doesn’t stop here but also expands on a wider level when it comes to how people see Christians and not just their holidays. The majority of people get their information from the movies they watch, in which Christians are portrayed badly and extremely out of context.
Real life VS Movie Land
The Egyptian movie, “baheb el sima”, is a movie everyone has watched, and from which they mainly assumed how and when Christians pray and how their interactions are around each other. The movie is outrageously wrong and border line offensive, rather inconsiderate. Christians do not kneel at their bed and put their palms together to pray. We do not have a specific ritual when it comes to prayer; each one chooses whatever position is comfortable for him/her. Some choose to bow their heads and close their eyes and pray out loud, and others like to just sit in silence and pray in their heads. We also do not recite certain words, but use our own, of course there are certain preexisting set prayers that we can read every day but at the end of the day it’s a matter of convenience. On another note, it is believed that Christians kiss each other on New Year’s during their celebration at church. How far from right that is, is indescribable. Not only has this movie, among others, helped stereotype 15% of the Egyptian population but also made their lives a bit harder every day. Nobody looks to right the stereotypes committed against Christians because they simply take whatever they hear as true and don’t verify from the source itself with the fear of mixing with the wrong bunch. And the cherry on top is that in a westernized third world country where the cinema theater is full of American movies, some people have mistaken Christians to celebrate thanksgiving which is a pure American holiday and not in any way a global Christian one.
No time for Christmas
The mighty celebrations were a great gesture but it hasn’t changed the fact that Christians don’t have time for Christmas this year, at least MIU students don’t. And when I say Christmas I mean either the 25th or 7th. Yes! Both are Christmas, but it’s a matter of affiliations, Orthodox and Protestants celebrate on the 7th and Catholics celebrate on the 25th. Nearly all Christians in Egypt are Copt orthodox, which means they celebrate on the 7th. However, MIU’s Christmas holiday is set for the 24th, 25th, meaning Catholic Christmas eve and Christmas day. This year, “mouled el naby” falls on the 23rd which means 3 consecutive days off for Catholics to celebrate, leaving orthodox and protestants only the 7th, with finals on the 6th and the 8th. Here’s how Christmas goes, on the 6th, women and men enjoy a happy day off. The day is filled with the smell of delicious food after 45 days of fasting, which means we don’t eat any animal products, basically we become vegetarians. We go to church to pray and then go home after midnight and enjoy a late family diner. Now that cycle gets broken when students have to stay up all night grinding their teeth from stress on the 5th, spend Christmas Eve in an examination room and go home worried and preoccupied by how they did on their final. Christmas spirit evaporates, and the taste of the holy holiday is gone before we have our meal. It is simply unacceptable for such violation to occur; taking away “el Eid” from the hearts and minds of Egyptian Christians is of the utmost monstrosity and utter ignorance and lack of civilization. Christmas 2015 obviously got lost in the mail.