Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hrisseh - Community celebration

The church under construction

People preparing the bbq or mashawi next to the church 

In Bhamdoun and the surrounding villages, Hrisseh is the way to celebrate. On Saint Mary's day - and throughout the night - the "Bhamdounieh" or people of Bhamdoun cook Hrisseh and eat with their neighboring villages. At Rejmeh, my small village 10 minutes away from Bhamdoun, they do Hrisseh on "Eid El Salib" (meaning the Cross Day) on the 13th of September, even if the church's name is Saydet El Bechara with it's aniversary being on Saint Mary's day.

Saint Mary's Day is for Bhamdoun, Mar Elias is for Mansourieh and Eid El Salib is for Rejmeh, ... that is how it has always been, even before 1982 displacement and war.
The old church got destroyed during the war, so "Eid El Salib" is also a fundraising event (for more than 10 years now) to help rebuilding it.

My mother invited her Lebanese American friend and her family to celebrate with us, they did not visit Lebanon for over 35 years. They enjoyed the welcoming spirit so much and the daughter in her early thirties said "we do not have such community celebrations in Los Angeles" (funnily comparing LA to Rejmeh) in the US one fundraising diner [with all its advertising and communication and specially the tax return] would get the church built in one year, and then people would loose the interest in organizing diners when there is no purpose.

I ask myself would these celebrations continue with the next generation, knowing that most live in the city and come there only during weekends or festivities and will the church ever be completed and when.

10 - 11 hours later Hrisseh was Ready 

Back to our  Hrisseh,  for "Eid el Salib" of 2010, it was made with 25 kg of wheat, a lot of salt and spices and 2 lambs. Yes, 2 full lambs (minus some lahme nayyeh - raw meet  - the men ate early morning when setting up the fire and recipe). The cooking, done with great care, is head by the hrisseh connaisseur of the region, Adib from Mansourieh. The pot cooked for over 10 hours.
While waiting for the queen-of-the-night-dish, people bring their own mezze  and whisky [or arak, but whisky would be the king, if hrisseh is the queen] or buy mashawi [fundraising] and coke and almaza [fundraising] while listening to the entertainer telling jokes and selling the tombola [big fundraising activity winning over being loud and annoying]. It is funny how the smallest Lebanese dinner entrée, the mezze, supposedly small bites before the big dish end up always being something grand (specially to the visiting foreigners) "oh, we won't be able to taste everything or maybe just a little bit of that"

Around 11pm Hrisseh was ready, people rushed in the get their share and there was plenty for all and more (following the old good hospitality reputation of the region: you invite 4 people you cook for 8. you invite 200, well you do cook for 300 at least) and i got mine and it was delicious. Delicious.
I even got my share to take back home.
Cooking Hrisseh - men taking turn for stirring - village's priest checking on the cook. 
People eating Hrisseh - National security and army where also present, as for all big gatherings in the country. Of course they had a fine diner with everyone.


  1. HI Celine I really liked your blog. I was doing a photo album about beirut too and I'm so glad I'm not the only one who sees things differently in Beirut and btw I like how u see it too :)

  2. thanks farah! :) send me a link or an email to see your beiruti album. take care!


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