Ameera is determined to celebrate Christmas. She and her children fled sectarian violence in Iraq. Though Jordan is safe, it is also expensive, and life is hard for the refugee family. But Christmas is too special for the family to go uncelebrated.
Jordan is now home to a large portion of Christian Iraqis and Syrians seeking refuge from violence in their home countries. Jordan has always been accepting of people of other faiths, and even guarantees Christians spots in parliament, and days off for Sunday service. But this year, as in years past, Christmas won’t be the same for many families residing in the country.
“We still have family in Iraq. My sisters and my husband’s sisters are all still in Iraq. It’s disappointing not having them around, we are alone here,” says Ameera.
She, her husband, and their four children came to Jordan four months ago. This will be their first Christmas away from family. When she hears her mom talking about Christmas, Aseel, Ameera’s youngest daughter, lights up, just like any other kid. Aseel knows that this Christmas won’t be like others, but she’s all smiles talking about it nonetheless.
Iraqi Christians have many of the same traditions as people in the U.K. or U.S. They make stockings with their children, celebrate with family, decorate Christmas trees, and attend church on Christmas Day. This Christmas, however, Ameera says her family will not be able to afford a tree or stockings.
“In Iraq, we have a Christmas tree and we make decorations for the home. The kids wear Santa costumes. It was nice when we celebrated there,” says Ameera. “We don’t have as much money here as we did in Iraq, and we still have bills to pay. So, it’s hard to make it work and still be able to celebrate Christmas.”
However, there’s one thing she doesn’t plan on compromising on in Jordan—Christmas dinner. She says her family still plans on having the traditional Iraqi dishes kubba (dough stuffed with minced meat), and dolmah (vine leaves, onions, and bell peppers stuffed with rice, spices, and ground meat). And of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas cookies! Iraqis eat a type of cookie called kletcha.
But even with kubba, Ameera’s family will be on her mind during the bus ride out of Hashemi Shamali and over to church.
“There’s a big difference between Christmas here and in Iraq. The church is not close to our house here, so we have to go by bus,” she says. “We’re not with our families and I’m not with my sister. It just won’t feel the same when I’m celebrating Christmas here. We’re really lonely here, and kind of sad, but so are a lot of people.”