Christmas Day in Iraq is celebrated on 25th December.
The celebrations of the festival here are quite different from the observation of it in the Western countries. On 24th December (Christmas Eve), an unusual ceremony is held in the courtyard of Christian households where the children of the family read the story of the Nativity from an Arabic Bible while the other family members hold lighted candles. A pile of dried thorns is kept at one corner. As soon as the story has been read the pile is lit up and a bonfire made up of it. A psalm is sung as long as the fire burns. It is believed that the way the fire burns signifies the future of the household for the coming year. If the thorns burn to ashes, it is a good omen and indicates good fortune for the family.
When the fire is reduced to ashes, everyone jumps over the ashes three times and makes a wish.
On Christmas Day, a religious service is held in the local churches and all Christian families residing nearby come to attend it. A bonfire, similar to the Christmas Eve one, is lit and all Christian the men of the congregation chant a hymn, while it burns. Then a procession is taken out in which the Bishop carries an image of the infant Jesus upon a scarlet cushion and walks ahead followed by the officials of the church. This Christmas Day service is quite long and always ends with the Bishop blessing the people and touching a member of the congregation with his hand. The member touches the person next to him who touches the person standing beside him. This continues until all those in the church have received the 'Touch of Peace.'
In 2008, the Iraqi government declared Christmas as an official holiday for the first time in the history of the nation. Christians form a small population in Iraq and they quietly celebrated this day, spending most of it in prayers and solemn religious services.