Lebanese Heritage Festival in Scranton celebrates silver anniversary

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A popular way to learn about a culture is often through the sense of taste. For one local church, it’s what this weekend is all about.

Saint Ann Maronite Church has been keeping the Lebanese culture alive, sharing its traditions, all while filling people’s bellies. Chicken kabobs sizzling on the grill, meat-stuffed grape leaves to spare, and plenty of traditional desserts.

It’s all on the menu and then some at Saint Ann Maronite Church’s 25th annual Lebanese Heritage Festival. Church-goers like Juliette Saadi take pride in their Lebanese background.

“We come from a very strong tradition and that people should know. A lot of people don’t know,” Saadi said.

The church on Price Street has been around since 1903. At one time, Christianity was strong in the home country of Lebanon, but Monsignor Francis Marini explains many have migrated so this festival is one way they keep their traditions going.

“They’re preserving their cultural and spiritual heritage outside of the Middle East,” Marini said.

What’s troubling is that younger generations often don’t know about their ancestry. This festival, a quarter-century in the making, has seen less participation in recent years.

“They don’t even make the Lebanese food. They don’t even know who their grandparents are. They don’t know their last names. And to me, I think that is very important,” Saadi said.

Despite a dwindling number of helping hands, the festival maintains its popularity. This is the second straight year this critical fundraiser for the church is extended to two days.

“We have to depend on the generosity of our volunteers, in order to be able to make sure we are here to continue to spread the Gospel,” Marini said.

Welcoming others to learn and taste the Lebanese history now and hopefully for many more years to come.

The Saint Ann Maronite Church Festival continues Sunday from noon to about 8 p.m. in the Electric City.

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