The local Lebanese festival is a means by which Lebanese-Canadians and their Canadian offspring convey their thanks to fellow Nova Scotians. It is a joyous event where Haligonians can experience the hospitality, tasty cuisine, and culture of people from the Levant.
The local Lebanese festival began in 2002, and the idea emerged partly from tragic events that occurred the previous year. The September 11th attacks were a crime against humanity that resulted in the deaths of countless innocent civilians, and our fellow house of worship Saint Nicolas Orthodox Church was also destroyed that day, as it resided near the Twin Towers since 1916. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, subsequently assembled an interfaith group of spiritual leaders and condemned the attack along with his Jewish, Christian, and Muslim counterparts. In parallel with Patriarch Bartholomew’s efforts to foster awareness and dialog, the Parishioners of Saint Antonios and their Priest Fr. Maximos Saikali decided that a festival would be beneficial. Bread would be broken and shared, as Jesus had done with his disciples, and Haligonians would experience the warmth and hospitality of people from the Levant.
In 2001, thanks to the arduous efforts of numerous Parishioners and donors, the Church brought the Olympic Community Hall into its fold in order to host charity, wedding, baptismal, and other events. The Olympic Hall was also the ideal place to house the festival, as it featured a large parking lot where grilled delicacies could be enjoyed outside in the summer Sun, and the Hall’s interior stage could host live singing and dancing. Moreover, the venue could accommodate numerous attendees, and proceeds generated from those visitors could be directed toward Saint Antonios’ philanthropic efforts (e.g., Feed Nova Scotia or the IWK). Our Parish, like numerous local organizations and individuals throughout Halifax, aims to give back. That goal is of particular importance to members of Saint Antonios and our sister Church Our Lady of Lebanon, many of whom sought refuge and a new life in this welcoming country. Admittedly, our efforts often seem insufficient and we’re always striving to improve. Moreover, we humbly recognize that philanthropy is an endeavour that warms the hearts of both the donor and recipient.
Indeed, Saint Antonios has previously partnered with groups such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, to help raise funds and increase awareness. Leukemia and lymphoma are certainly pernicious, with the former being a cancer that emerges in the bone marrow, and the latter being endemic to the lymphatic system. Nearly 10% of all cancers fall into the aforementioned groups. Excess funds generated from the festival were also directed to save Saint Matthias Anglican Church and its Community Centre from demolishment. The organization has a rich legacy and was a staple of the Halifax-Chebucto region for 130+ years.
In August 2002, the festival had its successful beginning, and thirteen years later the festival continues to grow. The Lebanese festival now hosts thousands of Haligonians annually, and preparation for the event occurs months in advance. Saint Antonios Parishioners volunteer nearly full-time in the weeks preceding the festivities. Ultimately, the Parish feels blessed to reside in beautiful Nova Scotia, and among its welcoming communities. Our broader Lebanese Maronite family also run an annual festival that occurs in early June (Cedar Festival).