Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 Lebanese Festival: July 7-10, 2011

It's an interesting experience having to title all of my more recent posts a little differently, as these key festivals come around for the second time.

As I mentioned last year, the Lebanese Festival is the Lebanese equivalent of the Greek Festival in almost every way: both are run by orthodox churches, both involve ethnic food, ethnic deserts, ethnic dancing, music, and fun games for the children. Having had the opportunity now to enjoy both festivals now for a second time, I understand a little more closely though the subtle differences between the two celebrations.

One of the main difference between the two festivals is the length each has been running. Whereas the Greek Festival is firmly established (26 years old) and brings in national politicians (remember Michael Ignatieff was there last year), the Lebanese Festival is still relatively new (this is only its 10th year). Consequently, the Greek Festival is very polished and smooth, and usually runs without so much as a hitch. The Lebanese Festival, on the other hand, has a schedule, but I've yet to see any of the events run on time, or exactly as listed.

Case in point, I showed up at 11:00 AM on Friday, July 8, to see the advertised Lebanese music videos and "Cooking With Tony" session. However, none of the advertised events were held until 1:00 PM, when the Briek Competition (in which I competed) was held.

What the Lebanese Festival lacks in organization and punctuality, it makes up in fun in spades. Everything about the Lebanese Festival is designed to entertain its guests, and they put on a good show. Last year I think I missed the point. I couldn't get past the fact that it seemed like a less punctual version of the Greek Festival. After a second year though, I've come to appreciate what makes the Lebanese special: it's a big party, and everyone's invited.

(With a kitchen in the back of the hall, the Lebanese Festival has a pretty slick operation running with its food distribution. As usual, I ordered the massive mixed platter, with tabbouleh - a salad of finely chopped parsley, tomato and fine cracked wheat seasoned with mint and tossed with olive oil and lemon juice; hummus - a chick pea dip served with pita bread and olive oil; kafta - grilled swewers of ground beef seasoned with onion, parsley, and spices; and grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomato and onion, parsley cooked in olive oil and lemon juice.)

(For desert I had the mixed desert plate, with three different kinds of baklava, date-filled ma'amoul, and I traded one of my baklava pieces with a student I taught for a piece of his awamat.)

(Any ethnic festival must have a table for crafts. It's a requirement it seems.)

(The goal of the breeq competition is to drink the water from the breeq the quickest, with the catch that the jug can't touch your lips.)

(The breeq - pronounced "breek" - is a traditional Lebanese water jug.)

(Victor, in the middle, would eventually be crowned the winner. I think it was unfair, since I actually drank all of my water - as per the rules - while as you can see here that he left most of the water running down the front of his shirt.)

(Perhaps the aspect I appreciated the most about the Lebanese Festival, was the creativity in which the organizers presented the standard festival events. This children's dance exhibition was run as a parody of "So You Think You Can Dance?" The judges of So You Think You Can Dabke? each spoofed a different judge of the original show, and it was obvious the children were having a great time.)

(The two girls in the previous pictures each tied for first place, and so they competed in a "dance off!" Much excitement and cheering from the crowd was present.)

(In between the events, the boys and I took turns rocking out on Rock Band.)

(Victor and Nick, power through Baba O'Riley. Victor wanted to make sure everyone noticed his Hendrix-like skills. I was told to inform you that he didn't miss a note on his solo.)


  1. I used to love going to the Greek Fest (I often holiday in Greece since moving over to the UK) and love everything about it!

    I will definitely be checking out the Lebanese Festival when I'm back :) I didn't even know it existed, but I have been gone nearly 8 years :)

  2. A) That's fantastic that you get to holiday in Greece. I think it is one of my favourite cultures. I certainly love the food.

    B) You definitely need to come. In the evening it's a big party with singing, dancing, lights, loud music... It's a blast, and it's free, plus there's delicious Lebanese food.