Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter in Lebanon

In the spirit of Easter i thought i'd share how Easter is celebrated in Lebanon. Easter is celebrated by the Christian sects in Lebanon, you have the Maronite, Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Catholic/Orthodox, Syriac, Assyrian, Coptic (Egyptian Christians), and Protestants... Sorry if i left anyone out. I'm going to share my experience growing up Armenian Catholic.

If you know Lebanese you know there's foods involved with all the holidays One of the sweets prepared to celebrate Easter is called Maamoul, they're little cakes made with semolina, sugar, butter, flower/rose water, and water. They are filled with walnuts, pistachios and dates which are my favorites. After baking them powder sugar is sprinkled on top of them. Preparing Maamoul it's a family style production where all the women, neighbors, relatives get together and help each other out. My mom used to make close to 10 to 15 kgs each year, that's a lot of Maamoul to go around, but we love them. She used to stay up overnight making them so you wake up in the morning and smell the sweet aroma yummmmy, i could have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

On the church front it all starts on Palm Sunday called Shaa'nini in Arabic. Kids wear brand new clothes and shoes, it's the introduction to start wearing summer clothes even though as far as i can remember every Palm Sunday was a little on the chilly side in Lebanon and we had to wear jackets on top of our new outfits. The Shaa'nini itself is a procession led by a priest and his helpers, the congregations follows, the kids hold decorated candles and are carried on their parent's shoulders or just carried around (mostly by dad, i would pay good money to see Lebanese moms carry their kids on their shoulders when they are all dressed up with full make up on, sheesh).  The candles are decorated with ribbons, flowers and olive tree branches and it's a competition on who has the tallest candle, some kids carry candles as tall as them.

On Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter we have the washing of the feet tradition where a priest washes the feet of 12 selected kids or individuals, he washes the feet with special blessed oils to commemorate how Jesus washed his disciples feet before the last supper. We also visit 7 churches with friends and family. It's a good opportunity to discover new churches. At some point i remember we used to carry twine with us and at every church you light a candle, say a prayer and make a knot in the twine you have. After finishing visiting all 7 churches you pray for something you'd like to come true and tie the knotted twine on your wrist like a bracelet. You can't take the bracelet off, you have to let it fall off on it's own and that's when you prayer is supposed to be answered.

Somewhere in between all this you color eggs. On Easter we have the tradition of egg fighting/tapping. Each person picks an egg to tap or have tapped. All the eggs are used until there is one person left with an unbroken egg. We play for pride not for prize, even though kids do get huge chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies as presents. We also get money. We don't do Easter egg hunts.

Also some people sell colored chicks during this holiday, the poor chicks don't live long cause kids want to play with them as if they're toys. I think one year my uncle had bought my youngest brother some, poor creatures, they never stood a chance.

On Good Friday also for us known as Black Friday (to not be confused with the American black friday and the shopping frenzy) fasting is encouraged and you abstain from meats. There is no mass on this day, no bells are rung, Good Friday is a mourning day. The churches hold service of the Passion of The Lord, it's traditionally in the afternoon around 3 pm and the Stations of The Cross are prayed, there are 14 stages total and if you are interested wiki has a good article about it. At the end of this service the statue of Jesus is taken down from the crucifix and placed in a coffin. Churches hold vigils from Friday night till Saturday. At Midnight between Saturday and Easter Sunday special Mass is held.

On Easter Sunday we go to church then go around visiting family and friends. You greet each other saying Al Massih Quam (Jesus is risen)  and the other person responds Hakkan Quam  (he has truly risen). And yes, there is a special Easter feast for Lunch.

{most photos in this post are not photos i took}


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