Iraq makes Christmas Day an official nationwide holiday to mark ‘the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ’
- The Iraqi cabinet has approved an amendment to the national holidays law
- It makes December 25 a public holiday for everyone, not just Christians as before
- Iraq’s population is 95 per cent Muslim and there are around 300,000 Christians
Iraq has made Christmas Day a national holiday, its government confirmed this morning.
The Iraqi Cabinet approved an amendment to its national holidays law which creates a new official one ‘on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ’.
Previously, Christmas Day had been designated as a religious break only for the Iraqi Christian community, but the amendment extends the holiday to everyone.
Iraq – a 95 per cent Muslim country – has made Christmas Day a nationwide holiday for all
‘Happy Christmas to our Christian citizens, all Iraqis and to all who are celebrating around the world,’ the Iraqi government wrote on Twitter.
Prime Minister-designate Adel Abdul-Mahdi (centre), whose Cabinet announced today that it is extending the holiday of Christmas Day, originally just for Christians, to everyone in Iraq
‘We extend our warmest wishes to Christians in Iraq and around the world for a very happy and peaceful Christmas,’ it added.
Iraq is a 95 per cent Muslim country – 66 per cent are Shia and 29 per cent Sunni.
There are thought to be only around 300,000 Christians remaining in the country, the vast majority of whom are Aramaic-speaking ethnic Assyrians.
There are also a smaller communities of Armenians, Kurds, Arabs and Iraqi Turkmens.
Before western countries’ invasion of the country in 2003, Iraqi Christians numbered around 1.4 million, but the onslaught of violence forced hundreds of thousands to flee, either to Iraqi Kurdistan or further abroad.
They have also found themselves persecuted on religious grounds by so-called Islamic State in recent years.
Christians living areas under ISIS control were ordered to pay a large tax, convert to Islam, or be killed.
An Iraqi youth dressed as Father Christmas hands over gifts to children at the Church of Mar Jacob al-Muqataa in the predominantly Iraqi Christian town of Qaraqosh
Christian worshippers exit after Christmas morning mass from the Mar Addai Chaldean Church in the predominantly Iraqi Christian town of Qaraqosh, in Niniveh province some 30 kilometres from Mosul
Iraqi Christians attend a Mass during a Christmas Eve celebrations at the al-Tahira al-Kubra church at the Assyrian town of Qaraqosh, some 13 km east of Mosul, northern Iraq, 24 December 2018
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians held their prayers across the country under tight security this Christmas.
Catholics joined together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at St George Chaldean Church in Baghdad.
Mass celebrations also took place at the al-Tahira al-Kubra church and the Mar Addai Chaldean Church, both in the Assyrian town of Qaraqosh, some 13 km east of Mosul.
A priest hugs a Christian girl after a mass on Christmas at St George Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq December 25, 2018
An Iraqi Syriac Catholic priest (left) leads Christmas morning mass at the Mar Behnam and Mart Sarah Syriac Catholic Church, which was damaged and defaced during its occupation by Islamic State (IS) group fighters, in the predominantly Iraqi Christian town of Qaraqosh
Hundreds of Iraqi Christians held their prayers in Mosul under tight security this Christmas