Middle Eastern Christmas event aims to fight misconceptions

December 7, 2018

For many people, the Middle East and Islam are two of the same. The Arab American Cultural Community Center is here to clear up that misconception by hosting a Christmas in the Middle East event this weekend.

“Some people still think Arab and Christian is an oxymoron, but we’re not just Muslims,” said Faiza Zalila, president of the secular organization. “And when you think about the origins, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Palestine.”

The center is bringing those Middle Eastern Christmas traditions to Houston at its Stancliffe Road headquarters at 12:30 p.m. Saturday with a Mediterranean brunch and presentations on Christmas traditions in various Arab countries. Kids (and adults) can enjoy a visit from Baba Noël (Santa Clause), Middle Eastern cookie decorating and bilingual Christmas song performances.

As of 2010, Christians made up about 4 percent of the entire Middle East according to Pew Research Center study - and in countries like Lebanon, that number bumps up to about 40 percent. People - including non-Christians - indulge Western traditions like Christmas lights and trees. But Arabs also have their own customs, like Christmas songs by the infamous Lebanese singer Fairuz, or enjoying a Yule long-inspired bûche de Noël.

“It’s to revive the spirit of coexistence, and share each other’s joy in each other’s holy days,” Zalila said.

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