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Expat Exchange - Christmas in Morocco
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Christmas in Morocco

By Betsy Burlingame

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: Explore the festive traditions of Christmas and New Year in Morocco, where the celebrations are marked by special foods, church ceremonies, the exchange of gifts, and an array of cultural customs.

Living in Morocco - Christmas in Morocco

The holiday season in Morocco offers a unique experience, blending the country's rich cultural tapestry with festive cheer. For expats and digital nomads spending their first Christmas and New Year's in Morocco, the period is marked by a subtle yet distinct celebration, different from the Western world but equally enchanting.

Christmas and New Year's in Morocco

While Morocco is predominantly Muslim and does not traditionally celebrate Christmas, the influence of international residents, tourists, and the historical French presence has brought a festive atmosphere to certain areas. Major cities like Casablanca, Marrakech, and Rabat, with their cosmopolitan flair, are where Christmas vibes are most palpable. Hotels and restaurants may offer special dinners, and some shops display holiday decorations. New Year's, on the other hand, is widely celebrated with much fanfare, with fireworks, parties, and festive gatherings.

Celebrating the Holidays

Expats and digital nomads will find that the holiday celebrations in Morocco are more subdued compared to the West. However, there is still a sense of community and joy. Many take the opportunity to gather with friends, share meals, and enjoy the mild winter weather. In the lead-up to the holidays, you might encounter small Christmas markets or pop-up shops selling artisanal goods, perfect for unique gifts.

Santa Claus and Gift-Giving

The concept of Santa Claus, known as Baba Noel in some parts of the Arab world, is recognized in Morocco, especially in areas with a higher concentration of expats. While not a widespread tradition, some families with young children might embrace the idea of Santa bringing gifts. Gift-giving is not as central to the holiday season as it is in the West, but it is not uncommon for people to exchange small presents, often focusing on handcrafted items or local delicacies.

Traditional Foods and Desserts

Food is an integral part of any Moroccan celebration, and the New Year's feast is no exception. Traditional dishes such as couscous, tagines, and pastilla may grace the tables, along with an array of Moroccan pastries like baklava, cornes de gazelle, and briouates. For those celebrating Christmas, you might find some restaurants offering special menus that include holiday favorites with a Moroccan twist.

Christmas Eve and Day

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Morocco are typically quiet, as the day is not a public holiday. However, expats and digital nomads often create their own celebrations, hosting private gatherings or seeking out one of the few Christmas services held in churches, mainly in larger cities. These services are usually conducted in French or English, catering to the international community.

Church Services

For those who wish to attend church over the holiday period, there are a handful of churches in Morocco where services are held, particularly in cities with historical European influences. The timing of services varies, with some churches offering midnight mass on Christmas Eve, while others have services during the day on Christmas.

Festive Hotspots

While widespread public Christmas decorations are not the norm in Morocco, certain neighborhoods and hotels in larger cities deck their halls with festive adornments. The Hivernage district in Marrakech, with its luxury hotels and restaurants, is known for embracing the holiday spirit. Similarly, the Ville Nouvelle (New Town) areas in cities like Fes and Tangier often have a more European feel, with subtle festive touches to be found.

Experiencing the holiday season in Morocco as an expat or digital nomad is about embracing the subtle nuances of a different cultural backdrop. While Christmas may be understated, New Year's celebrations offer a chance to revel in the joyous spirit that transcends cultural boundaries. The holidays here are an opportunity to create new traditions, savor Moroccan hospitality, and enjoy the country's winter charms.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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