Christmas in Lebanon is a special and joyful occasion celebrated by a diverse population that includes Christians and Muslims. The holiday is marked by a mix of religious traditions, cultural customs, and festive celebrations. Here's how Christmas is typically celebrated in Lebanon:
Christmas is primarily a religious holiday in Lebanon, and it holds great significance for the Christian community. The most important part of Christmas is the religious ceremonies and church services. Many people attend the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which is a beautiful and solemn service celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Nativity scenes, or "crèches," are a common sight in Lebanese homes and churches. These displays depict the birth of Jesus and often include miniature figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, and the Three Wise Men.
Lebanese towns and cities are beautifully decorated with lights, ornaments, and festive displays. Christmas trees are also commonly decorated, and the most famous Christmas tree lighting ceremony takes place in downtown Beirut.
Exchanging gifts is a cherished tradition, and it is a way to express love and goodwill. Children eagerly anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus, known as "Papa Noël," who is believed to bring gifts.
Christmas Eve is a time for a festive family meal. Traditional dishes are prepared, and the meal may include roast turkey, lamb, or other regional specialties. "Kebbeh nayyeh," a raw meat dish, is also a traditional part of the Christmas Eve dinner in some regions.
Caroling is a popular tradition, with groups of children and adults visiting homes, singing Christmas carols, and collecting donations or sweets.
Special Christmas sweets and desserts are prepared, such as "ma'amoul" (filled cookies), "kellaj" (a honey and nut dessert), and "atayef" (pancakes filled with cream or nuts).
Some Lebanese cities and towns organize Christmas parades and festivals featuring floats, music, and entertainment.
Christmas is a time for family reunions, and many people travel long distances to be with their loved ones during the holiday season.
Many Lebanese people participate in acts of charity during the Christmas season, helping those in need and supporting local charities and community organizations.
Christmas in Lebanon is a time of faith, tradition, and togetherness. The combination of religious customs, vibrant decorations, and festive gatherings creates a warm and joyful atmosphere during the holiday season, making it a special time for both the Christian community and the country as a whole.
About two weeks before Christmas people in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East plant seeds - chickpeas, wheat grains, beans, lentils - in cotton wool. They water the seeds every day and by Christmas the seeds have shoots about 6 inches in height. People use the shoots to surround the manger in nativity scenes. Figures are made from brown paper, as well a star is placed above the scene.
Traditionally throughout the Middle East people visit friends on Christmas morning and are offered coffee, liqueurs and sugared almonds. Lunch at Christmas is the most important meal of the season and the whole family gathers together for it, usually at grandparents or the eldest sons' home. The meal consists of chicken and rice, and Kubbeh, which is made up of crushed boiled wheat or burghul mixed with meat, onion, salt and paper.