Christmas in Fuheis is about sharing and giving

(Photos: Maggie Masse)
AMMAN — Father Boulos was born in Amman, but like many Christians in Fuheis, his family is originally from Salt. He greeted us affably in his home inside the grounds of the Greek Catholic Church, explaining that while the small city next to Amman has known an intermittent Christian presence since the 2nd century AD — when the Khirbat Al-Dayr site was home to a Byzantine church — most of the 20,000 Christians currently living in Fuheis started arriving from Salt in the early 19th century.اضافة اعلان

A photo of Father Boulos. (Photo: Maggie Masse)

While Madaba is perhaps the most famous Christian city in Jordan, known for its ancient churches and well-preserved mosaics, the Christians coming from Salt to Fuheis gradually transformed what was a seasonal farming community into what Father Boulos calls “the heart of the Jordanian Christian community.”

The city is home to Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox congregations and several small evangelical churches. The city also hosts over 200 Iraqi Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syriac Christian families who relocated to Jordan when Daesh threatened their homes and lives in northern Iraq in 2014.

Father Boulos explained that the Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox communities of Fuheis enjoy strong relations, and as if on cue, there was a knock on his door; one of his parishioners was dropping off donations of food and clothes to be distributed to poor families during the holiday season, a tradition and a responsibility shared by all three church congregations to provide aid to more than 300 needy Christian and Muslim families every year.

(Photos: Maggie Masse)

He explained that he and the clergy of the other churches share a list of families in need, and they divide the list equally so that each of their congregations is responsible for fulfilling the needs of one-third of the city’s poor families.

In addition to food and clothing, the families were also provided with blankets and heaters to help keep them warm during the winter months. While Fuheis also has a Christmas market with people dressed up as Santa Claus and other traditions of western origin with a vaguely consumerist bent, this particular tradition is shared across all the denominations.

Christmas celebrations in Fuheis on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. (Photos: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)

The Greek Catholic church of Fuheis also hosts an annual Christmas party for the children of both the parish and the Iraqi refugee families, featuring food, music, and gifts. Father Boulos spoke about the joy of the children but noted the difficulties faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic on his city’s traditions.
“The last two years were very hard because of the pandemic – especially at Christmas and Easter time,” he said. “Last year, the church was closed, and we had no Christmas, no prayer, nothing,” he added.

The church moved to virtual prayer for almost six months during the height of the pandemic in 2020. According to Father Boulos, the church saw members of all the denominations in Fuheis come together in prayer over the internet while their churches were closed.

This year the churches are open, and the Christmas Bazaar is back on, but one of the city’s oldest traditions, the gathering of family elders and church dignitaries to receive guests and holiday wishes at Beit Fuheis, the local municipal hall, is still canceled due to the public health risk posed by the new Omicron variant.

Christmas celebrations in Fuheis on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. (Photos: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)

Despite the restrictions, the sentiment of Father Boulos was also felt by those at the Fuheis municipality building. As employees walked past the Christmas tree on their way out of work, a Greek Orthodox office assistant named Johnny, two Catholics — one named Imad who traced his origins to Bethlehem and one named Hazem who identified himself as the municipal director of local development — and an Egyptian custodian affectionately nicknamed Prince, all affirmed the pluralistic nature of the Fuheis community.

They all expressed that the Christians and Muslims of Fuheis enjoy celebrating Christmas together regardless of their faith background.

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