Iraq announces Christmas Day as a public holiday

Asia

The Iraqi cabinet has announced a change to the national holiday law, extending Christmas Day from a Christian-only holiday to a national one.

On Christmas Day, the Iraqi Cabinet approved an amendment to its national holiday law to create a new official holiday ‘on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ’.

In Iraq, where 95 percent of the population are Muslim with around 300,000 Christians, Christmas Day had been designated as a religious break only for the Iraqi Christian community. Under the new amendment, the holiday now extends to everyone.

The follows an appeal made before Christmas by His Beatitude Card Louis Raphael Sako, who hoped to see Iraq follow other Muslim majority nations such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon who also recognise the birth of Christ with a public holiday.

Since the 2003 invasion, Christians have seen their numbers decline from around 1.5 million to just over 300,000, mostly Chaldeans and Syriac Catholics.