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Flower Shops Bring Christmas to Kabul

December 24, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ In devoutly Muslim Afghanistan, Christmas is like any other day _ people go to work, there are no blinking lights lining the streets and pine trees remain unadorned _ except on Flower Street, where local tree vendors are making an extra buck from the foreigners’ holiday.

Located in the heart of Kabul, Flower Street is different at Christmas from any other time of year, transformed into a festive place full of trees decked with multicolored tinsel garlands and lights.

``After the Taliban, we started to make Christmas trees because lots of foreigners are around, and they are asking for them,″ said Eidy Mohammad as he decorated a tree at his shop, the Morsal Flower Store. ``Business is growing _ we had only the wedding season before, but now we have Christmas as well.″

Unlike many non-Christian countries in Asia, Afghanistan does not recognize or celebrate Christmas. But thousands of foreigners who live in Kabul working with the United Nations, non-governmental organizations or international military forces, celebrate the holiday quietly in restaurants and behind military barracks.

Many shop at Flower Street for their holiday trees.

``Christmas is a good season for flower stores in Kabul,″ Mohammad said, adding that during the Taliban’s rule, nobody was allowed to make Christmas trees in Kabul.

He has sold about a dozen Christmas trees, earning anywhere from US$20 to US$200 _ a hefty sum for Afghans, many of whom make only about US$50 a month. The trees are from across Afghanistan and are adorned with Chinese-made artificial materials.

``I was amused when I saw trees with lights,″ said 29-year-old Abdul Qader. He thought the lit-up trees were a new fad in Afghan home deco, but he later found out they were for Christmas.

``They looked beautiful to me,″ he said with a smile.

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