Ailsa from the Scargill Community writes:
‘Looking back at the ten Christmases I spent in Lebanon, my mind is filled with swirling memories: For weeks beforehand, the children I taught were busy. Our class cheerful with crafts, cards and songs. It didn’t matter that we were a mix of Christian, Muslim and Druze. Christmas in Beirut was exciting for almost everyone! Homes, streets and shops twinkled with lights and baubles and often the sound of festive songs (Arabic/English/French) filled the air. Baba Noel, aka Father Christmas, popped up everywhere! Some families indulged in Christmas trees, but for others (especially Maronite Catholics) the focus was a crèche: a cave decorated with nativity figures along with sprouted seeds symbolising new life.
Midnight mass on the 24th December was followed by present opening and perhaps a yummy slice of chocolate Buche de Noel before bed. Greetings of “Eid Milad Majid” (glorious birth feast) exchanged.
For Protestants, the Christmas day service was a highlight and then… lunch! Whether it was turkey, lamb or chicken, tabbouleh was non-negotiable. This was accompanied by a medley of mezze dishes (hummous, fattoush, kibbeh, baba ghanouj, olives, etc), ending with fresh fruit or a bowl of meghle and nuts, always eaten to celebrate a new birth.
Then it was time to chill or chat or perhaps enjoy a small black coffee and a sugared almond.
“Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair” (May every year find you in good health).’
Holy Spirit, surprising word-giver,
You point out the truth of God’s signs
bringing hope to the world.
Let us hear your words today.
New-born John, sign of God’s mercy,
whose life and death will speak of God’s love.
This John heralds Jesus,
the gateway to peace,
Lamb of God,
who takes away the sins of the world.
Now let us celebrate signs of new birth,
where joy can be found.
May our shared food be used to build peace
across culture and creed.
We herald too our Lord who came,
and will come again.
Let us listen once more to the Spirit’s words
and by our lives point to Jesus, our Lord.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.’