Taliban Christmas trees, Bethlehem disco carols, and other yuletide tales from the Monitor's vault

Cairo's grinch

Dan Murphy / The Christian Science Monitor/File
Florist Ahmed Demiri (r.) said in 2005 that his Christmas sales were split equally between foreigners, Egyptian Christians, and Egyptian Muslims.

The Monitor’s self-proclaimed “curmudgeon-in-training,” who hoped he would escape Christmas joviality while living in the Arab world’s largest city, was out of luck in 2005. Correspondent Dan Murphy woke up one morning to the sound of elementary school children singing Christmas songs and was kept up one night by a Muslim neighbor’s Christmas party in the courtyard.

The other day, Ahmed Demiri, my local florist whose shop is entirely given over to wreaths and poinsettias these days, was just emerging from afternoon prayers at the mosque next door, when I demanded: "Who, exactly, is getting into the Christmas spirit?"

"The business is about equally divided between foreigners, Egyptian Christians, and Egyptian Muslims,'' he told me. In recent years, the Christmas season has become a mainstay of his trade. This year he expects to sell about 300 Christmas trees and "lots and lots of poinsettias. People think they're festive."

Festive? Bah humbug.

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