Christmas Celebrations in Tunisia: ‘Tis the Season!

By Wafa Ben Hassine | Dec 23 2011 Share on Linkedin Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google Share on pinterest Print

Tags: cathedral ,Christian ,Christmas ,Christmas tree ,St. Paul's Cathedral

Christmas in Tunisia: 'Tis the season!

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 is especially true in 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 and 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 that sell real fresh cut Christmas trees. In Soukra the “Pepinere de Soukra,” on 45 Farhat Hached 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: 71.275.400. Other tree farms exist 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 with ornaments, miniature trees, and fake snow. Other markets around the country such as Monoprix also sell decorations.

Religious Services:

St. Paul's cathedral in downtown Tunis

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, the celebration is 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 also be open on 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:

St. Vincent de Paul
Avenue Bourguiba
Carthage/La Marsa
St. Cyprien
L’archeveche, Sidi Dhrif
La Goulette
St. Augustin and St. Fidele
1, Rue Scipion
Bienheureux Antoine Neyrot
14, rue Abou Kacem Chebbi
72.280.865 / 71.338.935
St. Felix
1, Rue de Constantine
St. Pierre and St. Paul
4, Rue de Dag Hammarskjold
St. Joseph
2, Rue de l’Eglise (Houmt Souk)
75.650.215 / 75.655.257
Ain Draham
Sister’s Chapel
147 Ave Bourguiba

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