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Egyptian PhD student: Stuck in Denmark at Christmas

While most go home to their families for the biggest Christian festival, some stay behind: For Nermin, who is from Egypt, this is not by choice

For most people above the age of 14, Christmas is more than anything about reuniting with family and relatives. Presents, traditional food and obscure rituals aside, Christmas is a celebration of love and spirit shared among those closest to your heart.

And it is for this exact reason that Nermin Ghith is feeling depressed right now. Christmas is just around the corner, but she has no prospects of seeing her family among a Christmas tree and presents this year.

“This year, it is too unsafe to go back home to Egypt. I live just near the Presidential Palace and you can’t even walk on the street safely anymore. I feel like a foreigner in my own country,” says Nermit, who is doing a PhD in Copenhagen in medical science.

Growing resentment towards Christmas in Egypt

It is the third time that Nermit cannot go home for Christmas. Although a Muslim, she celebrates Christmas “just like Christians used to celebrate Eid with us,” she says. But now Christmas isn’t the same as it used to be.

“We normally go shopping, buy small gifts and decorations, go and watch the trees with the children, and watch them play. It is a very nice time of the year,” says Nermit.

Due to the political unrest in Egypt, a growing resentment towards Christian religious celebrations has arisen and some people are banning Christmas trees and the associated figure of Santa Claus in the stores.

Nice not to be alone

But although this year will be different from her traditional celebrations, Nermin will not be left entirely to herself on Christmas Eve. “I have Danish friends who have invited me to celebrate Christmas with them and go home and exchange gifts with them,” she says.

Last year Nermin also spent Christmas in Denmark due to the situation on Egypt. But she was at least able to Skype with her family members who were together without her for Christmas. Now they are spread all over the country, but as she is facing another Christmas separated from her loved ones, she is happy to be able to spend it in the company of good friends.

“It is really nice not to be alone at Christmas,” she says.

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