World Of Christmas
Read about Christmas and its traditions in Lebanon and Middle East and Lebanese Christmas customs.

Christmas In Lebanon

Lebanon is the only Middle East nation where Christmas is an official holiday. Marketing and commercialization had made Christmas a more secular festival in Lebanon. For Lebanese Christians, Christmas is an occasion to renew friendships and it is often celebrated even by Lebanese Muslims. Muslim families in Lebanon embrace Christmas by decorating their houses with Christmas trees and all major roads and streets are also seen decorated with Christmas trees and Creche or nativity scene. For Lebanese Christians, Christmas lunch is considered as the most important meal of the season. The whole family gathers in the house of the eldest male member, be it the grandfather or the eldest son, and enjoys a meal replete with meat, fruits and vegetables. Lebanon also has many specific traditions and customs associated with Christmas. Some have similarities with the western world though some are distinct and unique to this country only.

Nativity Cribs
Maronite Catholics, who form the 35% of Christians in Lebanon, form manger scenes called nativity cribs. These cribs are based around caves, and not stables unlike other countries, and are decorated with chick peas, wheat grains, lentils, broad beans and oats; these crops are grown on cotton wools in the weeks leading to Christmas. The cribs then become the focus of prayer for the people in the house.

Advent to Christmas Morning
  • In the initial days of December, Lebanese Christians spend the Advent assembling cribs in the sitting room of their houses which are exclusively designed to entertain guests.
  • A conventional Christmas dinner includes turkey, roasted duck, Lebanese salad (Tabouleh), and pastries such as Honey cake and Buche De Noel.
  • While family attends midnight mass, Papa Noel, aka Santa Claus, walks into the house with gifts.
  • Children are usually presented clothes or candy while toys, and video-games, are catching up fast as potent gifts for kids.
  • At midnight on Christmas Eve, the church bell rings as an indication for everyone to dress up well and walk towards church to attend services.
  • The morning of Christmas is an occasion for visiting friends and neighbours. The most common offerings for the guests are sugared almonds, Liqueur and coffee.
Christmas Food
The Christmas feast consists of chicken, rice and Kubbeh-made of crushed and cooked wheat-or burghul mixed with onion, meat, salt and pepper. Mughly, a pudding topped with peanuts, crushed almonds and walnuts, is prepared whenever a child is born in the family during the Christmas season. It is offered to the family members and also to the people who visit the newborn.

Western Influences
Beirut, in Lebanon, and other Middle East cities celebrate Christmas by conducting glamourous and big Christmas parties which even attract non-Christians. Western style exhibitions of poinsettias, Community Christmas trees and Christmas lights are also popular. Most of the Christians in Lebanon observe a fast of 40 days before Christmas as common to the western countries. Another custom which is common is the ringing of church bells in churches to announce the birth of Christ.

A Period To Renew Friendships
Villages in Lebanon make large bonfires where everyone gathers around to tell stories and sing songs. People take this as a chance to renew friendships and reconcile all misgivings.

A special dance called Dabkeh is performed by young men and women during this season in Lebanon. People hold hands and stand in semi-circles to dance to the music. The dance includes footwork which synchronizes with the sound of the music and the dancers dress up in colourful clothes and head covers.

Lebanese embrace Christmas in such a secular manner that everyone, directly or indirectly, becomes a part of it.