The 2016 Mahrajan

The 2016 Mahrajan

The 2016 Mahrajan

Our Lady of Lebanon’s 2016 Mahrajan will be held this year on Aug. 14 at Oglebay Park in Wheeling. For more than 80 years, the parishioners and extended family members of Our Lady of Lebanon have hosted this celebration of their heritage and the Assumption of the Blessed Virginia Mary.  I remember going to the Mahrajan as a child with my grandfather and enjoying all of the wonderful food parishioners had prepared for the day.  Unfortunately, due to the continued success of the festival and an aging and declining parish population, gone are the days when the traditional Lebanese delicacies served at the Mahrajan are made by the parishioners themselves.  While the families of Our Lady of Lebanon have not been able to personally prepare the volume of food items, such as kibbee, stuffed grape leaves, tabouli and hummus, needed for the festival for some time now, they remain deeply involved in making this annual tradition a success. While traditional Lebanese food and pastries are the main attractions for many Mahrajan attendees, there is much more to do than just satisfy cravings for ethnic delicacies.  A traditional Maronite Catholic Liturgy will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. to kick off the festivities.  Although a little more relaxed due to the outdoor setting, those who have not previously attended a Maronite Catholic Liturgy may enjoy experiencing the rituals of this Mass for the first time.  Once Mass concludes, the festivities continue with the opening of food booths and other activities at noon.  Free entertainment includes live Middle Eastern Music and dance shows beginning at 1 p.m. and continuing throughout the day.  There are also games for both children and adults, a children’s play area and vendors offering souvenirs and hand-crafted items for sale.  As always, admission is free. For those of you who joined us last year, you likely noticed that the 2015 Mahrajan marked the transition from the traditional use of purchased tickets as the primary form of festival currency to cash being accepted for purchase of food, drinks and games.  You may also have noticed there were a few hiccups with the transition, such as not always having enough change immediately on hand when people attempted to pay for small items (food prices range from $1-$7) with $50 or $100 bills.  The lessons learned in 2015 should make 2016 a much smoother experience.  Additionally, the Mahrajan will be accepting credit cards this year as well. As the Mahrajan changes with the times, one thing will never change: the commitment of four-generations of Our Lady of Lebanon families to honor their heritage, faith and tradition.  The festival is still put on, for the most part, by the parishioners and their families.  For me and many of the festival workers, Our Lady of Lebanon is not our home parish.  Rather, it is (or was) the parish of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and we are there to make sure the tradition continues and the needs of this historic church are met.  Our Lady of Lebanon’s Mahrajan began in 1933 as a way to raise funds to rebuild the 10-year-old church that had been destroyed by fire in 1932.  It continues today not only to honor the heritage of the generations of Lebanese-Americans who made Our Lady of Lebanon their home, but to ensure sufficient funds for the continued maintenance of the church – the only Maronite Catholic Church in West Virginia.  If you are in the Wheeling area on Sunday, Aug. 14, you are welcome to be one of our family for the day and join us at the 2016 Mahrajan.