Lebanon is the only Christian country in the Middle East. The mix of Christians to Muslims was considered roughly 45/55 last year, but this number varies depending on who you read. Christmas is a major festival and is celebrated widely – everybody joins in and Christmas decorations adorn roads, houses, restaurants, shops and malls. It’s a time of tradition and, although commercialisation is spreading, there is still a great sense of family and giving thanks for the year. People visit each other, give gifts and celebrate with a feast, usually on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas feast is similar to what you find in Europe. Roasts of all types are cooked depending on the family and the size of the group. The Lebanese are known for their feasts, so a large group may have many main dishes which include Turkey, Goose, Venison, Whole Lamb, Wild Boar, Fish and Pig. There will be an array of starters – not the Mezze that most people think of as Lebanese food, but any number of classic dishes from Coquilles St Jacques, Oysters, Prawn Cocktail, Cured Meats, Cheeses, Salmon, Seafood, or any bounty of snacks. Accompanying the food you’ll have champagne, wine, spirits, juices and all the usual fare. Dessert is often a traditional Yule Log (or Bûche de Noël) and there are always lots of nuts and chocolate to go round. At the end of the feast, the kids play and the adults usually relax with a nice cognac or brandy and chat long into the night. Some head to midnight mass and there is a very inclusive feeling as people from all secular paths come together.