Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 13 May |
Saint of the Day: The Blessed Virgin Mary ~ Our Lady of Fatima
home iconNews
line break icon

Iraq declares Christmas an official holiday

By Lena Ha | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 12/18/20 - updated on 12/18/20

Baghdad bishop says unanimous vote is "message of great hope for Christians."

Although Iraq is 98% Muslim, Christmas will become a public holiday throughout the country this year. 

The Iraqi Parliament passed the proposal with a unanimous vote Wednesday. It came just months before a historic visit to Iraq by Pope Francis. 

During an October 17 meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, proposed extending the Christmas holiday to all of Iraq. It had been a national holiday one year, and on a regular basis is an official holiday in only one province.

During the meeting, Salih, a Kurd who studied in Great Britain, recognized the role of Christian communities in the reconstruction of Iraq and reaffirmed the country’s commitment to assist the return of displaced Christians, beginning with Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, following jihadist occupation. 

In 2008, the government had declared Christmas a “once-only” holiday, but that was not repeated in subsequent years. Only the province of Kirkuk has granted a Christmas holiday. 

After Wednesday’s vote, Cardinal Sako thanked Salih and members of Parliament “for the vow cast for the good of their fellow Christians.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq March 5-8, stopping in Baghdad, Erbil, Qaraqosh, Mosul, and the Plain of Ur, traditionally recognized as the birthplace of Abraham. It will be the first time a pope has traveled to Iraq.

Auxiliary Bishop Basilio Yaldo of Baghdad called the vote on the holiday historic “because today Christmas is truly a celebration for all Iraqis.”

“This is a message of great value and great hope for Christians and for all of Iraq and is inevitably linked to the pontiff’s apostolic journey to our country in March,” Yaldo told Asia News. “This is one of the first fruits we hope will bring many others in the future.”

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
Meg Hunter-Kilmer
Saints to help if Mother’s Day is hard
Zoe Romanowsky
Moving 1-minute film about motherhood will touch your heart
I.Media for Aleteia
These 30 shrines will lead the Rosary Relay for end of the pandem...
Philip Kosloski
3 Signs of a spiritual attack on your soul
J-P Mauro
Philippines finishes construction of largest Marian statue in the...
Bret Thoman, OFS
A pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Siena
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.