Despite unusually cold weather for this time of year, an aura of celebration and festivities spread through Lebanon over the weekend, as people across our lovely nation celebrated Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Christians in Lebanon celebrated the conclusion of 40 days of Lent, a period of devout spirituality, fasting, prayer, and penance. The Holy Week culminated with Good Friday, a national holiday and the day on which the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is commemorated.
Across Lebanon, believers congregated in the thousands to participate in mass, prayer services, and symbolic reenactments.
In Qrayyeh, a village near Sidon, for example, more than 20 devotees marched through the rainy morning carrying a cross to symbolize the path Jesus is believed to have walked in Jerusalem to his crucifixion.
This sort of event is the norm in Lebanon, where townsfolk of all denominations have been partaking in the annual celebrations for centuries. This touching scene is one that many Lebanese, both at home and abroad, recognize and reminiscence about. Villagers and townspeople huddle in town squares, lighting candles and waiting to greet the procession.
Not too far away, a group of young people in the Marjayoun town of Qlaya raised an 8-meter high cross atop a hill overlooking the Litani River. The monument, which weighed around 400 kilograms, brings the total of crosses on the hill to nine; one for each year in which the procession took place.
Spirituality isn't limited to the countryside, with major cities like Beirut, Zahle, and Tyre lighting up in preparation for Easter festivities.
The holiday holds another significance; it is a time for politicians to set aside their differences and join in the commemoration of a holier cause.
In Kaslik, north of Beirut, President Michel Aoun attended a Good Friday mass at the Holy Spirit University, accompanied by his wife and prominent Lebanese politicians like former President Amine Gemayel, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, and Energy Minister Nada Boustani, among others.
On Saturday, giggly children participated in the holiday spirit, preparing their batches of ma'amool (a type of Lebanese sweet) and colored eggs.
According to most people, the eggs symbolize celebrating a new life, just as 'the resurrection of Jesus means a new life for people.'
Late on Saturday, people rushed to hold Midnight Mass, fighting off the cold and stormy weather together, in hymn and prayer.
Then, as it transpires every year, people across the country were awoken to the sound of church bells ringing, announcing the dawn of Easter Sunday.
The sermon of Easter Sunday is a chance for bishops across the country to reiterate their message of tolerance, dialogue, and compassion among the Lebanese people.
During his sermon at St. Elias Church in Sidon, for example, Bishop Maroun al-Ammar addressed his parish saying, "This holiday is for hope, happiness, and openness so we can live together safely and peacefully."
People on social media weren't far behind, with hundreds of Lebanese of all religions congratulating each other and sharing their heartfelt wishes of a Happy Easter for all.
It's time to be reborn and thankful🙏— Dalia Ghanem (@DaliaGhannem) April 21, 2019
May this April2019 bring you Joyeful WHITE days. #easter #HappyEaster #Happy #Love #GOD #EasterSunday#Lebanon #Beirut @PathwaysLebanon pic.twitter.com/GxoYcrrpwT
As per usual, laughter and jokes found their way. One light-hearted Lebanese was seen spreading easter eggs while dressed in a Santa Claus suit to reference the unprecedented cold snaps the country is witnessing so late into April.
Lebanon is a diverse country consisting of 18 sects and denominations that have lived in relative peace and togetherness since the dawn of its existence. It is worth mentioning that this weekend was celebrated by Roman Catholics and Maronites who follow the Gregorian calendar. Followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church will perform their celebrations next weekend.
Happy Easter to all!