In Lebanon, over 30 percent of the population follows Christianity, and Christmas is an anticipated affair every year. People decorate their houses and malls with Nativity Cribs and also attend Midnight Mass across various churches in Lebanon. Beirut, being the capital city, is bedecked glamorously with lights, Christmas trees, hollies and poinsettias. Most youngsters are seen partying and Christmas is celebrated just like it should be - with friends, family and lots of merriment. It is a fact that the Lebanese consider setting up the Nativity cribs far more important that decorating the Christmas tree. During this joyous festival, families visit each other's home, drink liquor or traditional coffee along with a delectable platter of fresh fruit, chickpeas and dates. Since the Lebanese are also partially French, their Santa Claus is known as Baba Noel. If the concept of a Lebanese Christmas has already captured your attention and you want to know more, then scroll further for more information.
Customs, Traditions And Celebrations
Lebanon is located in the Middle East and close to the Mediterranean Sea. Christmas is truly a unique experience in this country, especially since the culture of Lebanon is quite rich. Apart from following western customs and traditions during Christmas, Lebanon has incorporated its own touches.
14 days before Christmas, the dwellers sow seeds such as chickpeas, sprouts, grains, lentils and beans on cotton wool and not soil. They do this so that, by the time Christmas arrives, there would already be a small bud. These plants are watered regularly for these 14 days and by Christmas, the plants/shoots would already be 6 inches in length. People use these shrubberies to decorate Christmas trees and the Nativity cribs, to mark the birth of the Lord. Here, the characters of the Nativity scenes are made with brow paper and other fineries.
On The Day Of Christmas
On the morning of the festival, families get together and meet up for a brunch or lunch. Common elements present at the feasting table are coffee liquor, traditional coffee, mezze platters, sugared nuts and dates are kept on the table as a part of the Christmas feast. Before the meal commences, the young and old sit at the table, join hands and chant a small prayer for the Lord's wellbeing before beginning to eat. It is said that the Lebanese Christmas feasts are probably one of the heaviest and the richest meals around Asia and the Middle East, owing to the ample usage of nuts, butter, meats and rich fruit. For lunch, the traditional meal consists of chicken and spiced rice, and 'Kubbeh', which is made of boiled broken wheat, or 'burghul' mixed with different cuts of meat, onion, garlic, pepper and salt.
Following the hearty lunch, families relax or go to church, depending on the agenda for the day. Most modern families love to go shopping on Christmas or just like to catch up with close friends for a chit-chat or two. In the evening, friends and kin gather outside the houses with big backyards, and light a bonfire. It is customary to dance around the bonfire, recite tales of ancestors and remember the Lord. Singing folk songs is also a common practice.
'Dabkeh' is the traditional dance that is performed during Christmas time. This form of dance includes both male and females conjoining hands and dancing around in one big circle or semi-circles. Native tunes and the 'Darbouka' (traditional percussion instrument) are played, and these dances are usually choreographed well in advanced. Dressed in flamboyant colors, the Dabkeh is a customary dance during Christmas and is also a delight to watch!
Baba Noel is the Lebanese version of the modern Santa Claus. Known for bringing presents, Baba Noel is the visitor who children eagerly wait for every year during Christmas. Apart from having a huge fan following, Baba Noel is also known for his services to the needy and the impoverished. On the Eve of Christmas, Baba Noel comes on his sleigh and leaves presents for children while they are asleep. He is also believed to leave nuts, fresh fruits and local candy delights near fireplaces and under the Christmas tree. Unlike Santa Claus, who travels down the chimney inconspicuously, Baba Noel meets children face-to-face and is also known for his social services.
Christmas in Lebanon is a colorful affair. Unlike most countries, Christmas is celebrated sans snow and the caroling, but the spirit of the festival remains essentially the same. From the Nativity cribs to the delectable Lebanese Christmas cuisine, Lebanon is rich with a perfect balance of modern Christmas customs and touches of native practices during the holiday season.
Christmas in Lebanon is a dazzling affair. If you want to know more about the customs, traditions and celebrations associated with celebrating Christmas in this country, read on.