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Christmas in Egypt

Christmas and New Year’s in Egypt: A Festive Guide

Ready to celebrate Christmas in Egypt? You’ll discover a holiday filled with warmth, wonder, and a bit of ancient magic. Picture this: You trade snow for sunny days. You explore bustling markets full of handcrafted treasures. You see centuries-old traditions come to life. Celebrating Christmas in Egypt offers a rich blend of history and culture. It also has festive cheer that you won’t find anywhere else.

From entering Cairo’s historic streets, they will capture you. The same goes for strolling along Alexandria’s festive waterfront. You’ll also hear joyful carolers and feel the unique holiday spirit that fills the air. You might attend a midnight mass in one of the world’s oldest Christian churches. Or, you could enjoy a festive feast at a luxurious Red Sea resort. Egypt promises a Christmas celebration that’s both special and charming.

Dive into our guide to learn how to celebrate Christmas in Egypt. You’ll create memories that will last a lifetime!

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Is Egypt good for Christmas?

Egypt is a great place to celebrate Christmas. It offers a mix of ancient traditions, rich culture, and modern activities. Here are some reasons why it’s a fantastic destination.

  • Mild Winter Weather: Egypt has mild and nice weather in December and January. It’s ideal for those looking to escape cold places. Temperatures are comfortable for sightseeing, outdoor activities, and the country’s beautiful landscapes.
  • Christmas in Egypt is a rich cultural experience. The country’s Christian traditions root it. This is especially true of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Visitors can see unique religious celebrations. They can see the Christmas Eve service. They can also see the rich cultural heritage. This heritage is one of the best holiday seasons in Egypt.
  • Holiday and celebration decorations are a big deal in major cities. Festive lights, decorations, and Christmas trees deck out Cairo and Alexandria. Public places, malls, and hotels often host special events. For it’s holiday season, there are markets and concerts. These events create a joyful and lively atmosphere.
  • Egypt has some of the most important historical and religious sites. Enjoy visiting places like the ancient churches of Coptic Cairo, and St. Catherine’s Monastery adds a spiritual touch to Christmas. It also adds a cultural one. These sites are part of the historic Christian tradition.
  • Egyptian Christmas has unique traditions. These include the Nativity Fast, Holy Christmas, and the celebration of Mary’s Night. They provide a rich and different view of the holiday. These customs offer a chance to learn about Egypt’s diverse culture. They’ll help you appreciate it.
  • Egypt offers many diverse and wide-ranging activities for visitors. You can see ancient pyramids and temples, enjoy the Red Sea’s beaches, and go on desert adventures. There’s something for everyone.

Why is Egyptian Christmas celebrated on January 7th?

Egyptian Christmas falls on January 7th. This is because the Coptic Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, which is different from the Gregorian calendar that most people use today. Introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, the Julian calendar was the main calendar in the Roman Empire and the early Christian world.

Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582. I’ve corrected errors in leap year calculations in the Julian calendar. Many countries adopted this new calendar, but some Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Coptic Orthodox Church, haven’t.

As a result, Christmas Day was December 25 in the Julian calendar. It falls on January 7 in the Gregorian calendar. The date difference explains why Coptic Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7.

The Coptic Orthodox Church considers preserving its ancient traditions and practices vital. They’re very important to the church. This includes celebrating Christmas according to the Julian calendar. The calendar reflects the church’s commitment to its history and culture.

Christmas in Egypt

How is Christmas celebrated in Egypt?

Egypt’s people celebrate Christmas with unique customs, reflecting the country’s rich culture and diverse religions. Although Egypt is Muslim, Christmas is important for the Christian minority, especially for Coptic Orthodox Christians.

According to the Julian calendar, Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt celebrate Christmas on January 7. The celebrations begin with a magnificent service on Christmas Eve, January 6. Families attend church together. The Coptic Orthodox Church is renowned for hosting beautiful and elaborate masses. These include prayers, carols, and readings of the Christmas story. Churches are often decorated with colored lights, candles, and nativity scenes.

Before Christmas, many Egyptians celebrate a fast. It’s known as the “Nativity Fast” or “Advent Fast.” It lasts 43 days. During this time, participants abstain from eating animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Lent ends on Christmas Eve with a big “Holy Christmas” feast. Families and friends gather to break the fast and celebrate.

Also, for religious celebrations, Christmas in Egypt includes secular traditions. Lights, Christmas trees, and ornaments decorate houses, streets, and shops. People expect Christmas decorations in cities like Cairo and Alexandria. They’re common in public places and malls. Santa Claus is a popular character. Children await his visit to get gifts.

What do Egyptians do for Christmas?

During Christmas, Egyptians are busy with many activities and traditions. This is especially true for Coptic Orthodox Christians.

  1. For Coptic Orthodox Christians, attending church is the key part of Christmas. They attend the Christmas Eve service on January 6th. This service is solemn and joyous. It includes prayers, hymns, and the reading of the Nativity story. Churches decorate and fill the atmosphere with spiritual reverence.
  2. Fasting and Feasting. In the weeks before Christmas, many Egyptians join the Nativity Fast. It lasts 43 days, and they abstain from animal products. The fast ends on Christmas Eve, and families celebrate with a lavish feast. Traditional dishes are common. They include “Fata,” a hearty meal with rice, bread, lamb, and it’s garlic sauce.
  3. Decorating Homes and Public Spaces: Residents, streets, and shops are adorned with Christmas lights. They also have trees and decorations. In urban areas, festive displays are common in shopping malls and public squares.
  4. Exchanging Gifts: Gift-giving is a cherished tradition during Christmas. Children look forward to getting presents from Baba Noel. He’s the Egyptian version of Santa Claus. Family members and friends exchange gifts as a token of love and celebration.
  5. Christmas is a time for socializing and celebrating with loved ones. Families come together to enjoy meals, play games, and share stories. Communities organize events, such as concerts, fairs, and markets. They’ve held them to celebrate the festive season.
  6. Many Egyptians visit important religious sites, including the historic churches in Coptic Cairo. People often combine these visits with prayers and reflect on their meaning.
Christmas in Egypt

Where is the best place to celebrate Christmas in Egypt?

Egypt offers many great places to celebrate Christmas. Each has its own charm and festive feel. Here are some of the best places to experience Christmas in Egypt.

  1. Cairo is the capital city. It comes alive during Christmas, and there are many places to see in Cairo, including historic Coptic Cairo. You can explore ancient churches like the Hanging Church and St. Sergius Church there. Lights and festive displays decorate Tahrir Square and other public spaces. They’re beautiful. The Cairo Opera House often hosts special Christmas concerts and performances.
  2. Tourists know Alexandria for its Mediterranean charm. They consider it a great place to spend Christmas. Festive lights and decorations adorn the city’s waterfront Corniche. Important attractions include the Library of Alexandrina, which often has special events and exhibitions. There are also historic churches that hold Christmas services.
  3. Luxor is home to the most famous ancient sites and offers a magical backdrop for Christmas celebrations. The city’s temples, like Karnak and Luxor Temple, are lit with holiday lights. The Valley of the Kings is a must-visit, and the cooler winter weather makes it great to explore these historic sites in Luxor, Egypt.
  4. Sharm El Sheikh is on the Red Sea coast. It’s a great choice for a more relaxed, beach-centric Christmas. Its luxury hotels make the town well-known. It has warm weather and stunning underwater scenery. Many hotels and resorts host Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties. They have live music, dancing, and fireworks.
  5. St. Catherine’s Monastery sits at the foot of Mount Sinai. one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. It is a unique and spiritual place to celebrate Christmas. Attending the midnight mass here provides a deep connection. It’s to the religious meaning of the holiday.
  6. Tourists know Aswan for its pretty Nile River views and old temples. It’s another great place for Christmas. The city’s markets and streets are lively with festive decorations. Key attractions include the Philae Temple—also, the Nubian Museum and a scenic felucca ride on the Nile.

These locations offer history, culture, and nature. They make Egypt a great place to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the holiday season.

What do they eat on Christmas in Egypt?

Food is central to Christmas in Egypt. Traditional dishes reflect the country’s rich culinary heritage. During the holiday season, people enjoy some popular foods and drinks.

  1. Fata is a traditional Egyptian dish with layers of rice, bread, lamb, and garlic sauce. It’s a hearty meal. It’s flavorful and often served during the Holy Nativity Feast. This feast marks the end of the Nativity Fast.
  2. Molokhia is a green, leafy vegetable soup served with rice and chicken. Egyptians love this dish and enjoy it during festive gatherings.
  3. Kahk are shortbread cookies. Dates or nuts fill them, and they’re dipped in powdered sugar. They’re a staple at Christmas and New Year’s. People often share them with family and friends.
  4. Roz Bel Laban is a creamy rice pudding flavored with vanilla. It’s a popular dessert eaten during the festive season. It’s often garnished with nuts or cinnamon.
  5. Sobia is a sweet, creamy drink made from coconut milk, sugar, and sometimes rice. It’s a refreshing beverage often served during the holidays.
  6. Karkadeh is a traditional hibiscus tea that people can serve hot or cold. People enjoy this popular drink during celebrations. It’s got a vibrant color and tangy flavor.
  7. Gibna Domiati: Gibna Domiati is an Egyptian cheese often served at festive meals. It’s creamy and salty, making it versatile.

People enjoy these traditional Egyptian foods and drinks with family and friends, adding to the festive spirit of Christmas in Egypt.

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Tips for Excursions During Christmas in Egypt

Christmas time is perfect for exploring Egypt’s historical and natural wonders.

  • Visit Coptic Cairo. See the historic Coptic Christian sites. Learn about their rich religious heritage.
  • Rock Church in Cairo is unique. It’s in the city’s “garbage district,” offering a glimpse into local lives.
  • Luxor: Enjoy milder weather while exploring the Valley of the Kings.
  • Desert Adventures: Winter is perfect for Egypt safari tours. These tours offer a thrilling experience without the intense heat.
  • Diving and Snorkeling: The Red Sea stays warm. It’s a great place for underwater fun.

Activities and Events During Christmas and New Year’s in Egypt

Egypt offers a variety of activities and events to enjoy during the festive season.

  • Attend services on January 7. You’ll see the beautiful liturgies of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
  • The cooler winter air adds to the magic of visiting Egypt’s iconic pyramids.
  • Cairo Opera House: Enjoy the annual Christmas show featuring music and dance performances.
  • Many hotels and resorts host New Year’s Eve parties. They include live music, dancing, and fireworks.

Don’t miss to check our activities and tours in Cairo

Christmas in Egypt

Gift Ideas for Christmas and New Year’s in Egypt

Choosing the perfect gift for the holiday season in Egypt can be delightful. Here is a full guide to the best Egypt souvenirs that you can buy from Egypt.

  • Egyptian Cotton Bedding: Known for its softness and durability, it’s a luxurious gift.
  • Traditional Handicrafts: Ceramics, glassware, and textiles make unique and rich presents.
  • Perfumes and Oils: High-quality fragrances and essential oils are ideal for luxury lovers.
  • Artisans make Egyptian jewelry using precious metals and gemstones. It’s always a treasured gift.
  • Egyptian-themed Souvenirs: Fun gifts like pyramid-shaped paperweights or pharaoh-themed cups.

Safety Tips for Celebrating Christmas and New Year’s in Egypt

While Egypt is generally safe, here are some tips to ensure a secure holiday experience:

  • Stay Vigilant: Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded places.
  • Avoid protests: steer clear of political demonstrations.
  • Use reliable transportation: opt for trusted travel services.
  • Dress according to local customs.
  • Follow local customs. Obey local traditions. This ensures a respectful and fun stay.

Accommodation Options for the Holiday Season in Egypt

Egypt has many accommodation options. They suit all budgets and preferences.

  • Hotels: There’s something for everyone, from budget hostels to five-star resorts.
  • Resorts: Luxurious resorts in Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, and Marsa Alam offer top-notch amenities.
  • Vacation Rentals: Enjoy a homely experience with vacation rentals close to major attractions.
  • Guesthouses: Choose a family-run hotel for a more intimate and relaxed stay.

Check our guide for where to stay in Cairo

Conclusion

Egypt’s unique blend of ancient traditions and modern festivities creates a captivating atmosphere for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Visitors may seek spiritual solace, cultural immersion, or a fun holiday adventure. Egypt promises an enriching experience that will leave them with lasting memories.

Let us help you create your magical Egyptian Christmas holiday. It will be this Christmas and New Year’s!

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About the author

Egypt Planners Team is a highly experienced travel agency specializing in memorable trips to Egypt. The team comprises expert travel planners and tour guides with a deep knowledge of Egypt's history, culture, and top tourist destinations.
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