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The Christmas spirit in Jordan

Jordan might not be the first place you’d expect to find the Christmas spirit, after all the country is only about 4 percent Christian, but the holiday spirit is alive and well here among Christians and Muslims alike.

Fuhais, a city to the northwest of Amman with a large Christian population, boasts the tallest Christmas tree in the Middle East. According to an Associated Press report, the artificial tree stands 85-feet tall and members of the royal family and a number of local Muslims attended the lighting ceremony last week.

Throughout Amman, it’s actually not uncommon to happen upon the occasional Christmas tree, albeit much smaller than the one in Fuhais. Though they’re usually in more upscale locations that cater to upper class Jordanians and foreigners, many, if not a majority, of Muslims attend these places as well.

Just as in the West, Christmas here has taken on more of a commercial, festive appeal to those who don’t have a religious connection with the holiday. I recently visited an Iraqi family in Amman that I’m very close with. Though they’re all devout Muslims, the big news in the family was that the youngest member, a 7-year-old girl had sighted the “real” Santa Claus at a Christmas party near her house. She didn’t expect him to come down her chimney with a sack full of gifts, but she told me that she thought it was pretty cool to see him all the same.