A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, December 17, 2009

For the Season: Fairuz Sings Jingle Bells in Arabic

Since Christmas Eve is a week from tonight, I thought I'd start some seasonal postings. Though the number of Middle Eastern Christians is declining, and Bethlehem itself now has a Muslim majority (but still a Christian mayor), Christmas is obviously not just a seasonal thing for Bethlehem but a year-round source of tourism and pilgrimage. And the other thing is you get to celebrate it twice, or in Jerusalem, three times: Latin Christmas December 25, Orthodox/Coptic Christmas January 7, and Armenian Christmas, normally celebrated on January 6, in Jerusalem and Palestine celebrated according to the old calendar, which coincides these days with January 18. (I've also known Muslims who celebrated on the theory that it is a birthday of a great Muslim Prophet, but recently TV preacher Sheikh Qaradawi has been a grinch on the subject.)

I'll be posting other reflections as the three Christmases approach. To start things off, an oldie but a goodie (she's 74 or 75 now — oddly, a single Wikipedia article lists both 1934 and 1935 as her birthdates — so besides the fact the clip is black and white, it's pretty old), the great Lebanese singer Fairuz doing Jingle Bells in Arabic (worth listening to even if you don't know Arabic: she's one of the greatest* Arab female vocalists ever):

*A note to all my Egyptian friends: Please note I said "one of the greatest." Oum Kulthum will be discussed some other time, and never did any Christmas carols that I know of. Fairuz is still alive. Oum K. is an ascended master whom I do not intend to slight in the least._

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