Our Favorite Christmas Traditions From Lebanon

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This Christmas Eve, Terrace Restaurant would like to invite our friends and their families to come help us celebrate the joyous Holiday Season. In honor of this special event, we would also like to share some of our favorite Lebanese Christmas traditions with you, and say Eid Milad Majid (عيد ميلاد مجيد) – Arabic for “Glorious Birth Feast” but said in the same way Westerners say “Merry Christmas!” – from the bottom of our hearts! We hope you can join us on December 24th!

Creche

Crèche. Because somewhere between 25% and 35% of Lebanese citizens identify with the Maronite Church (a sect of Catholicism founded by the 4th Century monk Maron), one of the most sacred Christmas traditions in Lebanon is building a crèche, or a Nativity Crib. Though Middle Eastern Nativity scenes include figurines of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, shepherds, and kings just like Western ones, there are some important differences in the Lebanese crèche: in the tradition, the nativity crib is centered around a cave, not a manger, and the crèche is usually decorated with chickpea, broad-bean, lentil, oat, and wheat seeds that grow and sprout from a damp cotton wool in the weeks leading up to Christmas. During the Holiday Season, the crèche is an important part of the home and serves as a place for family members to pray and ask for blessings.

Dance The Dabke!

Dabke. A traditional dance performed during Christmastime, the Dabke requires friends and family members to join hands in a circle or semicircle and stamp their feet in time to native tunes and darbouka (a traditional Lebanese percussion instrument) rhythms. Though anyone can participate in the Dabke, dances are often choreographed in advanced and feature colorful costumes with lots of flair!

Buche De Noel

Feast. Serving an abundance of delicious, rich food at celebrations is a hallmark of Middle Eastern culture, and Christmastime in Lebanese households is no exception. During the holidays, families fill their tables fill with traditional kebbeh pie (Lebanon’s national dish made from minced meat and burghul), chicken with spiced rice, tabbouleh, mezze plates of hummus and beet and tahini salad, lamb rotis, and more. For desert, the buche de noel – a rolled holiday log borrowed from French tradition – is prepared along with traditional meghli (rice flour, anise, and caraway pudding), and guests are often served sugared almonds accompanied by a strong cup of coffee when visiting a neighbor’s home.

Baba Noel in Lebanon - Terrace Restaurant and Lounge

Baba Noël. In Lebanon, Santa Claus is known as Papa Noël or Baba Noël – also a throwback to Lebanon’s French cultural influence – and, like Santa, is known for bringing presents to children. Unlike Santa, though, who travels down chimneys and leaves presents for children when they are asleep, Baba Noël comes through the front door and greets children in person. In the tradition, Baba Noël is also concerned with poor and needy children more than Santa Clause, who cares primarily about “good” children.