Beirut – Christmas in Lebanon is quite a colourful occasion – at least far as the political parties are concerned. In addition to the festive season’s traditional red and white, streets and neighbourhoods are decked out in the colours of the political parties in control there.


For followers of Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, Christmas this year will be orange, because it represents the party’s orange flag and what its members see as a symbol of promise. "We are dreaming of an orange Christmas, because orange is fresh and it represents the sun and a bright future," said Selim Karam. At a Christmas fair organized by "8 Oranges," a company established to raise funds for Aoun’s party, even the red hat of Santa Claus is painted orange.


In parts of Lebanon loyal to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Christmas is blue – the colour of the government chief’s Future movement. The giant Christmas tree that is traditionally set up in downtown Beirut, where Hariri resides, is decked out in blue lights, while in Sunni Muslim-dominated neighborhoods, the decorations are also in various hues of blue. "Everything is politicized in Lebanon, even Christmas," noted Saadeddine Quleilat, a Hariri loyalist. "Christmas is for everybody, Christians and Muslims. It is a festive season which focuses on forgiveness, and we Lebanese should forgive one another and live in unity."


Going further south towards the capital’s southern suburbs, the power base of the Shiite movement Hezbollah, it is a yellow and green Christmas, in line with the colours of the party’s flag. "We have to decorate for Christmas because we have a lot of Christian customers," said a store owner in the main shopping street of Mouwad, a district close to Christian areas. Trees decorated with yellow ribbons and yellow lights line Mouwad street, where Shiite women clad in black head shawls known as chadours can be seen shopping alongside young women clad in shorts and skimpy mini skirts – in a scene that has become associated with Lebanon’s unique society. "Christmas is for everybody. We have a Christmas tree at home and I am buying Christmas gifts for my small children," said Alia Harb, a chadour-clad shopper. "We are telling the world that we are Muslims, and we stand with our Christian brothers to tell the world that this is Lebanon," Alia added.


Although Christmas has been politicized, there remains a unique sense of a festive holiday season, as all seem united in a Christmas spirit of shopping and listening to Christmas carols.