I'm going for the falafel. At least, that's what I keep telling myself as I walk into the St. Maron Catholic Church. The church is hosting the A Touch of Lebanon festival. I can already smell the food and the place is buzzing with excitement. I p...
I'm going for the falafel. At least, that's what I keep telling myself as I walk into the St. Maron Catholic Church. The church is hosting the A Touch of Lebanon festival. I can already smell the food and the place is buzzing with excitement. I purchase my tickets (the method of paying for food, drinks, and games at the festival) and make my way out to the back doors.
To my right, is the food. Awesome. To my left, drinks. Even better. Traditional Lebanese music is blaring from the across the lot and I hear the distinct jingle of hip scarves. I meet up with my friend Katrina Khoury, and ask her what food she recommends. Falafel, eggplant sandwich, gyros, chicken kabobs, the list is endless. I settle for falafel, promising myself that I'll get zalabieh (fried dough balls) later. After I stuff myself, I head back into the church for a tour. The stained glass windows are absolutely beautiful. Many have Western influences. The tour guide explains more about the Maronite religion and history.
The patriarch of the Maronite Church is St. Maron. He was a monk who lived a deeply spiritual monastic life. He performed miracles and healed many people. He was able to spread the word of his teachings by converting a temple into a Christian church. Many people wanted to follow his way of life, and his influence today is spread throughout Lebanon. St. Maron died in 410. On February 23rd, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI blessed the statue of St. Maron.
A very interesting fact is that the President of Lebanon has to be a Maronite. The Prime Minister must be a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament, a Shi'ite Muslim. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament must be Greek Orthodox. This is to fairly represent all the religious groups in Lebanon.
As I make my way back to the festival grounds, I see that even more people are here. Men and women are lining up for dabke, a Lebanese folk dance. There are lots of bright colored costumes, and I'm told that most are handmade. I eat an eggplant sandwich and finally have some of that zalabieh I promised myself. A tambourine is now added to the music, along with a tablah. There's an extremely happy atmosphere, and I feel like I know much more about Lebanese culture than before. When I ask Anthony Sharbet why St. Maron has a festival, he responds with smile. "To stay stable, unite, and have a good time."
More information on the Maronite Church can be found at www.stmaron.com .