As Islam is the official religion of Iran and more than 98% of Iranians are Muslims, Christmas is not officially celebrated in the country. However, if you travel to Iran during the last weeks of December or the first weeks of January, there are several places that you can visit to get the Christmas vibe and have lots of fun. Although you shouldn’t expect to see Christmas festivities as huge as found in other countries, you can enjoy your time in the Christian neighborhoods and experience a lovely holiday here. Let’s have a look at the places you have to hit up during Christmas in Iran.
Cities to Visit during Christmas in Iran
Most Christians of Iran are Armenians. Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, Boushehr and Abadan are home to most Armenians of Iran. Assyrians are the other Christians of the country. These two groups celebrate Christmas in the same way but with slight differences. If you visit cities like Tehran or Isfahan during Christmas holidays, you can enjoy participating in festivals and celebrations held by Christians of Iran. Here we’re going to introduce the main Christian neighborhoods of Tehran, Isfahan and Tabriz to you so that you can plan to visit them while traveling in Iran.
If you are in Tehran during the two last weeks of December or first week of January, you must visit the Armenian neighborhoods to feel the real vibe of Christmas. Most Armenians of Tehran live in Vanak, Karim Khan, Majidieh, Mirzaye-Shirazi, Narmak, Heshmatiyeh and Naderi Street in Jomhouri district. Therefore the streets of these neighborhoods get fully decorated with Christmas lights and the windows of the shops of these streets get enchantingly glittery and vibrant weeks before Christmas. Plenty of Christmas trees, street lights, Christmas candy canes and Santa Clauses who wander next to flower shops who will happily take pictures with you make the whole place full of life even during the coldest nights of winter. In addition, confectioneries that are packed with people who’re buying boxes of Gata breads, almond biscuits, cinnamon cakes and puddings for their Christmas gatherings are a must-see during these lively days for sure. Even a lot of Iranian Muslims visit these streets to enjoy the blissful atmosphere and get in the festive mood of Christmas in Iran.
Since Villa Street in Karim Khan Neighborhood is an easy-to-navigate place, we suggest you to choose it for pre-Christmas strolls and joyful hours of window-shopping. Not to mention that Saint Sarkis Cathedral which is one of the most beautiful churches of Tehran is located in this neighborhood.
If you are visiting Isfahan during the Christmas holidays, make sure you spend at least a few hours in Jolfa neighborhood which is the main district that Armenians of Isfahan live in. Vank Cathedral, as the greatest and most beautiful church of Iran, is the center of Christmas celebrations in Isfahan and is located in Jolfa neighborhood. The Christmas celebrations that take place in Vank cathedral are quite elaborated so don’t miss out on that if you’re looking for a glorious ceremony while in Isfahan.
If you happen to be in Tabriz during the holidays, visit Mahaad-Mahin neighborhood (also known as Miar Miar) which is the main Armenian district in this city. You can join celebrations held by Armenians especially if you’re accompanied by an Iranian guide who can manage to take you to the festivals and events during your trip.
The Sweet Taste of Christmas in Iran
We all agree that one of the main components of any celebration is eating! Christmas in Iran is marked by delicious pastries and cookies that are especially made for the holidays and sold in Armenian confectioneries. Here’s a list of the most popular Armenian confectioneries of Tehran that get super crowded a few weeks before Christmas and have the lively pre-holiday vibe that you’re looking for. We highly recommend that you visit at least one of them and try their tasty pastries.
Oriant Café and Confectionery
Located in Mofatteh Street and near Darvazeh Dolat Intersection, Orient Café and Confectionery is one of the oldest confectioneries of Tehran which is owned by an Armenian family. Don’t expect to see a modern pastry shop as you enter this confectionery because it’s mostly popular for its old and original look. The pleasant smell of Walnut and Pistachio Tarts, Armenian Perok, Armenian Nazook cookies and handmade chocolates are what attract people to this small yet lovely confectionery every single day of the year especially days before Christmas.
Orient Café was originally built by an Armenian migrant nearly 76 years ago but was later bought and owned by Mr. Suzuk and his family who are one of the old Armenian families of Iran.
Another famous Armenian pastry shop, Talaee Confectionery is located on Mirzaye Shirazi Street, one of the loveliest neighborhoods which has been home to Armenians of Tehran for decades.
In fact, Mirzaye Shirazi is mostly famous for its toy shops and sandwich stores which are mainly owned by Armenians. These shops turn into vibrant Christmas markets during the last two weeks of December and get tastefully decorated by Christmas lights in order to add the festive vibe to the city.
Talaee Confectionery, like other popular pastry shops of the neighborhood, displays tasty deer shaped and Christmas tree shaped cookies in the last days of December. But aside from them, the long standing reputation of vanilla and orange cake of Talaee confectionery makes it an irresistible choice. In addition to that, you’ll see a lot of Armenians buying cinnamon pastries, fruit tarts and Armenian Gatas from this pastry shop since these tasty sweets are part of celebrating Christmas in Iran.
Lord Confectionery is regarded as the most famous Armenian pastry shop in Tehran by a lot of non-Armenians. This confectionery, located next to the splendid Sarkis Cathedral, features a tiny and cozy cafe upstairs that allows you to have a piece of cake with a cup of tea or coffee while enjoying the nostalgic atmosphere of the place. This confectionery is totally packed with customers from weeks before Christmas because most Armenian families love to have at least a dish of pastries from Lord Confectionery as a treat for their holiday guests.
If you want to try the most famous pastry of Lord Confectionery, you must opt for its apricot tart for sure!
Music Festivals during Christmas in Iran
As you wander among Armenian confectioneries and Christmas markets of Iran – which don’t feature the over-the-top Christmas hype but are still delightful and charming – you’ll see advertisements on shop windows that announce music performances by young Armenian musicians for Christmas celebrations. If you are interested in music festivals and would like to support Armenian local musicians of Iran, make sure you participate in at least one of these concerts. You can also mingle with Armenians and other Christians of Iran after the music performance and enjoy having friendly conversations with them.
Ararat is the main Armenian Club in Tehran and is the center of annual great festivals for Christmas in Iran. This club is usually used as a venue for concerts, food festivals and thrift shops during Christmas and you can enjoy several celebrations and events here. Note that Christmas holidays are not celebrated in Iran officially which means schools and offices are not off during the last days of December or the beginning days of January. But all of the celebrations and Christmas festivals held by Armenians and other Christians are legal and you are free to join them as a traveler. However, participating some of these festivals requires you to buy tickets which can be easily handled by your Iranian tour agency.
For more information about our Iran tours and itineraries, don’t hesitate to contact us at Land of Turquoise Domes. We do our best to make your trip to Iran an unforgettable memory.
Interested to know about Iranian celebrations and ceremonies? Click here.