Memories From Lebanese Christmases

The Christmas tree & Nativity Scene at my home
There’s a reason Christmas is the favorite time of the year of many people. I am one of those people.

No matter how hard life could be treating me – regardless of whether my problems can be considered grand or minute – I always find the Christmas spirit creeping up on me as soon as November turns its last page.

There’s just something about this holiday that transcends hardships, the division of religions… and there’s more to it than the glitter of Christmas decorations and gift purchases. To me, Christmas runs deeper than that.

My earliest Christmas memory is from back when I was three. I remember getting this present involving a “car” which ran on batteries that were recharged out of an electric socket. It was pretty high-tech back then. That same Christmas eve, it snowed in my hometown – the very first Christmas I remember was white.

But what’s probably the highlight of that Christmas for me was not the very awesome gift I got or the snow that piled up outside my room’s windows. It was sitting with my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunt and baby brother, next to a fireplace as my mother chanted Christmas hymns.

My mother has a terrific voice, which she inherited from her father whom I never knew and her singing Majida El Roumi’s “Bilayli Berdani” on that night will forever be ingrained in my memory: the way this simple song was able to keep the light in the room when it was dark.

However, as one grows up, the joy that is brought by Christmas starts to lessen. You get more excited about the vacation you’ll get from school and the gifts you’ll receive from various family members much more about the obvious meaning of the holiday.

The Pope called this in this year’s Christmas sermon “superficial glitter” – and he’s absolutely right. We stop at the superficial regarding Christmas without ever going a little deeper than that. Even the word Christmas has a contracted form now in the form of X-mas. How hard could it be for anyone to type five extra letters, I have no idea.

Whenever Christmas rolls around, shops start to get their prices ready for the huge influx of shoppers that are there to spend their paychecks. And we’ve all done it. But I, for one, don’t do it because I feel like getting gifts is something I have to do, although I admit when the shopping gets horrible I begin to wonder why I’ve gotten myself into that mess. Why I get gifts is because I feel happy when I see my grandmother smile as I hand her a sweater or my mother have a tear in her eye as I give her the perfume I bought her.

The joy that comes from Christmas is not one from the materialistic. It’s a joy that flows around the air, that transcends the mundane motions that going through life entails. It is the happiness you feel when you’re at a shopping mall and you find a father carrying his toddler son on his shoulders and dancing to the tunes of Christmas songs blasting through the speakers. It is the unconscious smile you have on your face when you see an impromptu Christmas parade around the streets in Achrafieh, knowing that no matter how grim the situation might be, this a time for everyone to be happy.

The joy from Christmas comes from the warmth of your family all huddled next to you, sharing a meal, hoping that these people will be present at this same meal the following year. The joy from Christmas arises from the distinct memories you have of every Christmas eve you’ve lived through – and how even through the darkest places your family has gone through, you can still find smiles on that day.

Merry Christmas to all. And on the day where God gave the world His Son, whether you believe that happened or not, it is fitting that you also give back to those who are less fortunate. Donate to a charity, or a cause or anything you might see fit. Give and let live. Forgive those who have trespassed against you for that is the true meaning of Christmas.

And on this Christmas, my heart goes out to all the people in the world who are suffering because of their beliefs, especially the Christians of Egypt and Iraq. May they find the peace they need with the smiles they have on Christmas day.

3 thoughts on “Memories From Lebanese Christmases

  1. Pingback: Laylit Eid – Fairuz’s Christmas Song Live at her December 23rd Concert « A Separate State of Mind

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