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Christmas in Lebanon

Lebanese Christians find ways to celebrate amid an economic crisis and instability


A decoration in Arabic reads “Restoring hope” on the Christmas tree in Sassine Square in Beirut. Getty Images/Photo by Anwar Amro/AFP

Christmas in Lebanon

Strings of golden lights lined the ceiling of Forum de Beyrouth, an otherwise dark exhibition hall in Beirut. There, Cynthia Warde, founder of In Action Events, prepared for Friday’s opening of a Christmas market. The eight-day event, called Christmas in Action, takes place in a 107,600-square-foot space and features more than 200 local designers whose creations include jewelry, clothing, and leather goods.

The market, in collaboration with Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism, is open for the first time since 2018. The Middle Eastern country is grappling with an economic crisis that began three years ago. Banks have restricted customers’ access to deposits, triggering recent heists. A deadly explosion at the Beirut port in 2020 and widespread anti-government protests in 2019 have also compounded the country’s turmoil.

The death of an Irish soldier on a UN peacekeeping mission on Wednesday signals rising tensions between local armed groups and peacekeepers. Pvt. Seán Rooney, 23, of the UN Interim Force was killed in an attack as a hostile crowd surrounded his armored vehicle traveling to Beirut. Three other soldiers were injured.

Given Lebanon’s turbulence, the Christmas market brings much-needed cheer. With more than 50 food stands, live music, and gingerbread house–making workshops for children, Warde said the event provides a good business opportunity for participating vendors. Organizers hope to attract more than 100,000 visitors.

Still, the financial pressure remains a tangible reality for many families who will not celebrate Christmas in the ways they were accustomed, including gathering for special meals and giving gifts, according to Marwan Aboul-Zelof, lead pastor of City Bible Church in Beirut. His congregation plans to hold a Christmas celebration on Friday evening at the Padova Hotel in the business district of Sin el Fil. Participants will read the Christmas story from the Bible, sing, and hear a sermon from Aboul-Zelof.

He prays in this Christmas season that Christians in Lebanon remember Christ Himself was born into poverty and that God is with His people even amid troubles. Aboul-Zelof also prays that Lebanon’s difficult times would increase believers’ longing for the return of Christ, “who will set us free from this broken world.”

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