Christmas in Morocco: a celebration more commercial than spiritual

In Morocco, in the main cities and as soon as the month of December comes into its own, supermarkets and other businesses are garlanded in red and white. Trees then appeared and adorned shop windows, when they were not simply displayed for sale, even in supermarkets.

Cafés, shops, hotels, patisseries… then soaked up the atmosphere of European end-of-year celebrations, Christmas and New Year’s Eve with all their soul. Moroccans are slowly and surely becoming more and more acclimatized to this Christmas, this pagan holiday that has become universal over the centuries and interpretations. This celebration, which constitutes one of the great highlights of the Christian religion with Easter, today combines in the West and elsewhere an unprecedented religious significance (nativity) and carries along this tradition of “unmissable gifts” under the Christmas tree, of which of course, it goes without saying “Baba Noël“ is the undisputed star in this specific period which, moreover, was celebrated above all by our ancestors for its winter solstice.

Like all end-of-year celebrations and particularly that of Saint-Nicolas (Christmas), it is undoubtedly a boon for traders beyond its spiritual scope, because each year it is the subject of a very strong commercial activity. We don’t tell you it’s all good and it amounts to billions of euros across the planet and again, we don’t hide its economic benefits even in countries other than those of Christianity. Contrary to popular culture in the Western world, this celebration evokes three elements and in the first place: the gifts placed at the foot of the tree by Santa Claus (we gladly keep the secret for the youngest…).

These traditions are followed by a large number of people all over the world, whether they are Christians or not, including of course Morocco. For the Kingdom, this occasion is stripped of cultural symbols, although it is attracting more and more Moroccan families who are more eager to multiply the opportunities to meet than to celebrate the event. And since the advent of the new century, we have been indulging more and more in this activity and even more since the advent of Dame Covid, a bit like to ward off bad luck after a confinement which has considerably upset our social interactions.

But let it be said, Christmas in Morocco is not unknown to the battalion as the other would say. This feast of the nativity would have been celebrated in Fez in the 15th and 16th centuries, at the time of the Wattassides, according to Hassan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Zayyati, better known as “Leon the African”. Indeed, the inhabitants of the imperial city organized a dinner on New Year’s Eve. Since then, like other celebrations imbued with commercial and globalized modernity, Christmas has experienced a decline in religious belief, the celebration is increasingly cut off from its religious origins, but it remains as a traditional celebration. No need therefore to be a Christian to celebrate it. More and more Moroccans who “celebrate” Christmas are carried away by the atmosphere of the end-of-year celebrations than by any spirituality.

For European expatriates when you live in a distant country, with almost reversed seasons and a different culture and dominant religion like Morocco, it does not seem easy to celebrate Christmas in Morocco, a Muslim country to boot. But nay! In fact, against all odds, Moroccans celebrate Christmas, finally in their own way. Not all Moroccans, of course, but in cities such as Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Agadir or Tangier and others, more and more of them are taking part in this celebration which they consider as than, that of children in the first place. The dinner of December 24 is generally a special moment with a neat menu, more refined than usual and particularly Western dishes that we will share with family or friends. Of course, it is not the nativity that we celebrate.

This is how the song goes, now in Morocco, as elsewhere, at the end of October we celebrate the pumpkin with Halloween, at the end of December we celebrate the big red man and New Year’s Eve, mid-February Valentine’s Day, Easter spring… and so goes life in the Kingdom. Much more than spirituality, these are only highly symbolic festivals that are readily associated with other societal ideals (children’s day, family reunification, etc.) than religious ones.

The religious festivals in Morocco, in this context, are called Aïd El Fitr, Aïd Al Adha, Aid Al Mawlid Annabawi and their derivatives Achoura… which are celebrated cheerfully and with a completely different spirituality, unlike in other countries. and their end-of-year celebrations, where savoring foie gras, a fine turkey, good cheeses, caviar and other French candied chestnuts, while drinking champagne and wine, is a way of life.

Christmas in Morocco: a celebration more commercial than spiritual