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Lebanon, Guest country

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During the Christmas festivities, an extra touch of magic takes hold of the City as we discover a guest country. Visit Place Gutenberg to discover all the charms of Byblos, a Christian city of the Middle East, as Strasbourg welcomes Lebanon. This year, Strasbourg is welcoming Lebanon, the birthplace of monotheistic religions. There will be special focus on Byblos, the former Phoenician port which saw the creation of the modern alphabet, and which has now become a city that symbolises diversity.

The famous Place Gutenberg will play host to stalls decked out in the Lebanese colours, ready to welcome visitors in search of a taste of the Middle East. Local craft creations and mezze and other traditional delicacies made from regional products will help you experience the magic of a Lebanese Christmas, at the very heart of the capital of Christmas. In Lebanon, Christmas is a cultural and religious festival that highlights the desire of the country’s numerous religious communities to live together and demonstrate the values of sharing, peace, and brotherhood.

Inherited from a pagan tradition, the Saint Barbara celebrations begin on the evening of 3 December. The little ones and not-so-little ones set off in costumes, going door-to-door, as a reminder of the young “Barbara” the runaway, who wanted to escape the violence of her father, Dioscorus. At the beginning of the month of Christmas, some Christian families in Lebanon plant wheat, and await the arrival of the first shoots, which symbolise birth and life. As the festival draws near – 25 December according to the Gregorian calendar – Lebanon is decked out in its finery and decorations. The entire country moves to the rhythm of traditional Christmas songs, sung in Arabic, English and French. Christmas day is a holiday for all the religious communities.

The Christmas meal is the highlight of the celebrations. Lebanese come together to generously share a culinary extravaganza that mixes traditional dishes (stuffed vine leaves, chickpea hummus, aubergine puree, beef stew, etc.) with more Western gastronomic creations. At the end of the meal, meghli, made from rice semolina, caraway seeds and cinnamon, and traditionally offered to celebrate births, is the preferred dish, although all desserts and cakes have their rightful place. In Lebanon, the Christmas celebrations end the day after the nativity festival, which takes place 6 January according to the Eastern Orthodox Julian calendar, and which once again brings the Lebanese together.

Cultural programme

The Fayha Choir comes to Strasbourg

To open the festivities, the Fayha choir from the city of Tripoli will put on a concert entitled “Noël en Orients” [Christmas in the East], spreading a message of peace and diversity. Like the cultural richness and diversity of Lebanon, this choir brings together singers from 17 religions.
Saturday, 23 November, 8 p.m., at Strasbourg Cathedral.

To demonstrate the message of tolerance and humanity championed by Lebanon, the Lebanese Embassy in France, along with several other partners, are offering a rich cultural programme:

  • Conference on Lebanon’s rich historic and cultural heritage
    Led by experts, historians and scientists, this conference will highlight Lebanon’s religious tourism sector.
  • Creative literary and artistic workshops for children
    Organised in partnership with a Lebanese publishing house, these workshops will be hosted by children’s authors and illustrators. This original initiative will showcase the children’s talents.
  • Discussion on the topic of Lebanon’s academic excellence
    This discussion with a number of Lebanese students from schools and universities in Strasbourg will demonstrate the excellence of academic education in Lebanon, as well as the open-minded nature of those who represent the future of our two nations.