Maronite Christmas Traditions or Customs
The Nativity scene
The preparations for Christmas start on 15 December when the Maronite Church starts the evening masses 9 days before Christmas.
In the villages, on 23 December the housewives used to whiten sesame for the traditional «coulouria» and the following day they would bake them together with the New Year pie in which they put a coin. Also, as in the Roman Catholic Church, in all Maronite churches they prepare mangers in memory of the Holy Night. The manger was usually made by the young people who used simple materials which they could find in their villages. In Kormakitis they put the statues of Mary, Joseph and the Three Wise Men.
On midnight of 24th December the Maronites used to go to church for the Holy mass and on Christmas day they would visit relatives and friends to exchange wishes.
The Nativity scene is traditionally used as a shrine within the home and is the place for prayer – especially of the rosary. On the night before Epiphany (6 January), the Maronite3 tradition dictates that Jesus passes at midnight and blesses the homes of the faithful. A dough is hand-kneaded by the matriarch of the household with new flour, olive oil, salt and water and fashioned into a little container around a new coin. This is hung from a tree near the front door overnight. At midnight, the family gathers around the crêche to pray the Rosary.
On Epiphany, the coins and dough are taken down and kept as talismans and the crêche is dismantled and put away for the next 11 months.
The practise of fast and abstinence was regulated by the Maronite synod of 1736.
Fast: eating and drinking forbidden until midday
Abstinence: abstaining from eating all meat, oil, wine and animal products (eggs, milk, cheese etc.)
1. Great Lent from Quinquagesima to Easter abstinence every day; fasting every day except on Sundays and Saturdays (with the exception of Holy Saturday)
2. Apostles Lent abstinence four days 25th – 28th June
3. Assumption Lent abstinence eight days 7th – 14th August
4. Christmas Lent abstinence twelve days 13th – 24th December
5. Abstinence every Wednesday and Friday except: from Christmas to Epiphany, the Friday before Great Lent, from Easter to Pentecost, June 24th and 29th; August 6th and 15th
6 Forbidden food Like most oriental Christians, the Maronites kept the Mosaic ban on eating blood, suffocated animals and certain animals considered impure; and which Oriental Church Councils have many times renewed.