Everything you need to know about Coptic Christmas

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Updated 06 January 2019

Everything you need to know about Coptic Christmas

While the rest of the Christian world has recently celebrated Christmas, Jan. 7 is the day Coptic Christians mark the birth of Jesus Christ, according to the Orthodox calendar.
It’s marked in Egypt
Over 10 million Christians reside in Egypt, which makes up 10 percent of the country’s entire population. Most of them are Orthodox Copts, the largest Christian population in the Middle East.
Jan. 7 is the day
Unlike Dec. 25, Coptic Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Jan. 7, following the Coptic calendar. This is the same for other Orthodox Christians in places like Russia and Serbia.
Baba Noel is Santa
Children patiently wait for Baba Noel (Father Christmas), the Copts’ own version of Santa Claus. Stories have it that Baba Noel finds his way through windows and leaves some gifts, often in exchange of an Egyptian treat called “Kahk.”
There is fasting…
In the run-up to Christmas day, Coptic Christians fast for 43 days, avoiding food products that come from animals. The fasting period starts Nov. 25 and lasts until the day before Christmas.
… and singing
The month before Christmas is called Kiahk, the fourth month in the Coptic calendar where Copts sing special songs of praise or “Kiahk tunes” on Saturday evenings. The month plays a significant role in Copts’ preparation for Christmas.
… and feasting
After the Christmas service on the eve of Jan. 7, Copts break their fast with a feast of meat. A favorite Coptic dish during Christmas is called “fatta,” which consists of rice, bread, and boiled lamb or beef.

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

“Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story, but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

CHENNAI: Sooni Taraporevala gained immense fame by writing for Mira Nair’s films, such as “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala” and the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” In 2009, Taraporevala stepped behind the camera to helm a small movie called “Little Zizou” about the Parsi community. It was a hit, and three years ago, she took up the camera again to create a virtual reality short documentary about two boys from Mumbai’s slums who became renowned ballet dancers. 

Taraporevala converted her documentary into a full-length feature, “Yeh Ballet,” for Netflix, and the work, though with a somewhat documentary feel, is fascinating storytelling — a talent we have seen in her writings for Nair. 

Happily, “Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story (of the kind “Gully Boy” was), but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. The film begins with a breathtaking aerial shot of the Arabian Ocean on whose shores Mumbai stands — an element that points toward the director’s background as a photographer. 

The film chronicles the lives of Nishu and Asif Beg. (Supplied) 

A story inspired by true events, “Yeh Ballet” chronicles the lives of Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif Beg (newcomer Achintya Bose). The two lads are spotted by a ballet master, Saul Aaron (British actor Julian Sands) who, driven away from America because of his religion, lands in a Mumbai dance school.

Nishu and Asif, despite their nimble-footed ballet steps, find their paths paved with the hardest of obstacles. When foreign scholarships from famous ballet academies come calling, they cannot get a visa because they have no bank accounts. And while Asif’s father, dictated by his religion, is dead against the boy’s music and dancing, Nishu’s dad, a taxi driver, feels that his son’s passion is a waste of time and energy.

Well, all this ends well — as we could have guessed — but solid writing and imaginative editing along with Ankur Tewari’s curated music and the original score by Salvage Audio Collective turn “Yeh Ballet” into a gripping tale. It is not an easy task to transform a documentary into fiction, but Taraporevala does it with great ease. Or so it appears. Of course, the two protagonists add more than a silver lining to a movie that will be long remembered — the way we still mull over “Salaam Bombay” or “The Namesake.” But what I missed was a bit more ballet; the two guys are just wonderful to watch as they fly through the air.