Egyptians follow The Coptic Church, which is an Orthodox church. Because of this, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th rather than on December 25th. It is celebrated as a public holiday for Christians, with people having the days before and after off from school and work. The preceding Advent season lasts for forty-days, during which people are expected to abstain from eating meat, poultry and dairy products. However, more recently, most Egyptians only follow this rule during the last week of Advent.
On Christmas Eve, Egyptians attend church dressed in a completely new outfit. The Church is decorated with candles and lamps to remind us of the times when Joseph lit candles to keep the cold away from Mary during the Nativity. The service lasts until midnight, ending with the ringing of church bells and the receiving of special bread called ‘qurban,’ which means sacrifice. Qurban has the Holy Cross in the middle and twelve dots to represent the twelve apostles. After the end of the service, everyone goes home to eat a special Christmas meal known as ‘fata.’ The meal consists of bread, rice, garlic and boiled meat as its main components. On Christmas morning, Egyptians visit their friends, family and neighbors’ exchanging what is known as ‘kaik,’ a type of shortbread and drinking ‘shortbat.’
Although, only Christians celebrate Christmas as a public holiday, Muslims celebrate the birth of Jesus with equal enthusiasm. Christmas traditions in Egypt are influence by both the Muslim celebrations as well as the different regional cultures throughout Egypt which makes for a very different and diverse celebration.