Church volunteers release wishes' sky lanterns during a Christmas celebration in the San Gorgeous church in Aleppo city, northern Syria, Dec. 22, 2017. After losing glamor for over six years, special occasions such as Christmas and New Year are regaining their shimmering magic as the situation is getting better in the war-torn country. (Xinhua/Ammar Safarjalani)
by Hummam Sheikh Ali
ALEPPO, Syria, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- After losing glamor for over six years, special occasions such as Christmas and New Year are regaining their shimmering magic as the situation is getting better in the war-torn country.
During the wartime in Aleppo, people were busy thinking of how to stay alive amid the intense battles that had raged in that key city in northern Syria for four years.
Mortar shells and explosive-rigged gas cylinders used to rain down Aleppo on daily basis, claiming the lives of countless civilians.
The attacks had intensified during the special occasions of Christmas and New Year, with people staying in their homes praying for salvation and protection from the deadly war.
But after the liberation of the city from the rebels last year, the situation has changed.
This year, celebrations and the love of life are the main themes in Aleppo, whose residents have for long been longing to celebrate, instead of burying loved ones.
Christmas trees have mushroomed across the city, almost in every restaurant and cafe.
In the San Gorgeous church in Aleppo, dozens of Syrians gathered on Friday evening, enjoying Christmas carols, and snapping selfies near a Christmas tree and a decorated cave, featuring baby Jesus, Joseph, and Mary.
The atmosphere was cozy, with the warm lights of Christmas ornament and the smile and joy on the faces of the people, who showed up to celebrate and feel the spirit of the holiday, probably for the first time in years.
Pieces of paper were later given to the crowds.
"Write your wishes and give to us to release it into the sky," one of the church's volunteers told the crowds.
The people were excited to write their wishes for the new year and pasted them on sky lanterns before releasing them into the sky of Aleppo.
With every lantern released, the crowds cheered, as the lanterns looked like floating starts of hope, brightening the night sky of the city.
Mark, one of the organizers, told Xinhua that he and a group of volunteers came with the idea.
"Since the war has ended in Syria, more specifically in Aleppo, we want people to write their wishes so that we can collect all of the wishes and paste them on the sky lanterns in celebration of hope," he said.
Wearing a new outfit, Karol beamed as she was showing her new white jacket to her friend before inching closer to the sky lantern spot, a little sashay in her walk.
"The event and this sky lantern initiative was amazing, we had a wonderful time and we are happy about the gathering of people here because it has been so long since we have done something like this and we were longing to have such events," she told Xinhua.
Karol said her wish is for the peace and security to prevail this country and for those who left to come back and feel the joy together.
Her friend, Elina, in her 20s, also loved the celebration and said her biggest wish is to have her friends and relatives back from abroad.
"I wish for all my friends and relatives who traveled outside the country to return because I miss them and also because the country seemed to have gotten empty over the years of war," she said.