By Wafa Ben Hassine | Dec 23 2011cathedral ,Christian ,Christmas ,Christmas tree ,St. Paul's Cathedral
Tunisia, well known for its warm climate and beautiful beaches, is also an ideal location to spend the winter holidays. If you happen to find yourself in the country as Christmas approaches, rest assured that there are many ways to celebrate a-la-Tunisienne.
Setting the mood:
Despite having an overwhelmingly Muslim population, Christmas still comes alive in Tunisia. This isÂ especially true inÂ the capital, Tunis, and regions often frequented by tourists. In recent years the holiday has become more commonly celebrated by Tunisians of all faiths. Shop-owners around the country advertise Christmas specials andÂ decorate their shops with trees, mistletoe garlands, and artificial snow.
But for a true feel of the season – a bit of snow on red-tiled rooftops, a fireplace, and a cup of hot cocoa to hold as it snows – head to Ain Drahem. The city is one of the coldest in the country, and is reminiscent of an old village in Scandinavian Europe. Many expatriates and tourists visit the city for Christmas. There are many hotels in the region that offer competitive rates.
Buying the tree:
A few tree farms and local lots in the suburbs of Tunis can be found thatÂ sell real fresh cut Christmas trees. In Soukra the “Pepinere de Soukra,” on 45 Farhat HachedÂ Avenue, has trees available. They can be reached at 71.240.313. Another place that folks typically buy Christmas trees from is the tree farm in Carthage, which can be reached at:Â 71.275.400. Other tree farms existÂ around the country that also sell Christmas trees.
Decorating the tree:
For all your decorating needs, head to Carrefour! This spacious supermarket, which has branches in Tunis, Soukra, el Menzah, and several other neighborhoods in Tunis, has shelves brimming withÂ ornaments, miniature trees, and fake snow. Other markets around the country such as Monoprix also sell decorations.
Nearly all churches in Tunisia will be offering services on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. However, the St. Paul Cathedral in downtown Tunis is one of the more popular places to spend Christmas Eve.
Standing tall on Habib Bourguiba Avenue and in between Rue d’Alger and Rue de Rome, the cathedral offers a festive Christmas Eve atmosphere, enlivened by the “Chorale Notre Dame d’Afrique” (Our Lady of Africa choral group). Christians and Muslims alike attend the event, which begins at 9:30pm. Following the eve’s mass, theÂ celebration isÂ moved to the cathedral’s crypt, where chocolates and other candies await all attendees. Enforced security is provided around the cathedral until 12:00am. Christmas day begins with an open mass at 9:00am, which is performed in Italian. At 11:00am, a pontifical mass will be held.
The St. George Anglican Church, also in downtown Tunis (on Rue Mongi Slim, in el-Hafsia), will alsoÂ be openÂ onÂ Christmas Eve, starting with a short service open to families at 6:00pm. A Holy Communion will be held for adults at 11:00pm. Christmas Day is celebrated in the church with an all-age worship service that begins at 9:00am. Children are invited to to bring a gift that they have received to show everyone at services.
Provided below is a partial listing of churches in Tunisia, some of which will be offering services:Tunis St. Vincent de Paul Avenue Bourguiba 71.338.935 Â Carthage/La Marsa St. Cyprien L’archeveche, Sidi Dhrif 71.640.982 Â La Goulette St. Augustin and St. Fidele 1, Rue Scipion 71.735.349 Â Nabeul/Hammamet Bienheureux Antoine Neyrot 14, rue Abou Kacem Chebbi 72.280.865 / 71.338.935 Â Sousse St. Felix 1, Rue de Constantine 73.224.596 Â Sfax St. Pierre and St. Paul 4, Rue de Dag Hammarskjold 74.210.253 Â Djerba St. Joseph 2, Rue de l’Eglise (Houmt Souk) 75.650.215 / 75.655.257 Â Ain Draham Sister’s Chapel 147 Ave Bourguiba 78.655.608