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Why the Taliban gave me a Christmas tree

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My Palestinian producer, Sausanne Ghosheh, bubbled as she sang and danced in the wintry high desert night under Christmas lights strung above Manger Square. A Sunni Muslim, she made a point of telling me how much she loved Christmas and how she and her Palestinian friends always celebrated it as children.

IN PICTURES: Got your red hat?

I will always remember my hefty sabra cameraman, Yehuda Chemel, singing “Jingle Bells/ Jingle Bells/ Jingle all the way” in a very pronounced Israeli accent, whenever we drove through Israel during the two weeks before Christmas. It was a rite of the season. Sure, it wasn’t as reverent as “The First Noel,” but it suggested Christmas is infectious.

Not just a religious holiday

Christmas is not just a religious holiday. It’s a power. It transcends cultures, politics, and religion. At the height of the cold war in the officially godless Soviet Union, the atheistic Russian Communists never failed to provide free Christmas trees to their perceived adversaries in the Western news media.

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