Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Christians take time out for Easter

Christians take time out for Easter
'Business has been really good'

By Nour Samaha
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Supermarkets and sweets shops were bustling over the weekend as the Christian community prepared to break its 40-day fast over the Easter holiday weekend. Giant multi-colored eggs and huge chocolate bunnies were lined up on many store shelves, offering a tantalizing temptation to many customers. Despite an economic crisis exacerbated by a tense political deadlock, retail sales picked up over the weekend as the Christian community got set to remember the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"This year business has been really good for Easter," said Noura Abboud, the manager of Noura, a posh confectionary near Sassine Square in Achrafieh. "We're lucky because both the Orthodox and the Maronite Easters fall on the same day [this year], so all those celebrating Easter are buying at the same time." "People tend to buy all the traditional things for Easter - the eggs, the bunnies, the chicks," she added. "It is a very stressful time for me, but it is good for business." Across the street at the ABC shopping mall stood Mischa Chamoun, 24, who had spent the last two weeks working for Lindt chocolate. "Business has really picked up in the last few days as people start really preparing for Easter," she said, standing amid boxes of chocolate eggs and cardboard cutouts of Easter bunnies. "I would say this year's Easter celebrations are different - people are not spending a lot of money. They would rather save money as they don't know what is going to happen [politically], and so they're not really splashing out like they have done in previous years."

Preparations for Easter begin on Good Friday with the painting of hard-boiled eggs, which are smashed against one another on Easter Sunday to mark the end of Lent. The egg is seen by many believers as a symbol of rebirth and a representation of the resurrection of Christ. The notion of the rabbit as Easter bunny, believed to have originated in Germany in the 15th century, is also a symbol of fertility and rebirth for many believers. Following the painting (and hiding) of eggs on Friday comes a midnight Mass to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ.

Pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants saw a noticeable dip in clientele on Friday evening as many of their Christian customers attended Mass across the country. "Good Friday is the one Friday I never go out on," said Mirella, a 26-year-old brand manager. "It's a sad and upsetting day. It's the day they put Jesus on the cross." Chamoun echoed the importance of the holiday. "I go to Mass every year on Good Friday ... It is tradition in our family," she said. "We always have a family lunch with my uncles and aunts and cousins" on Easter Sunday, she added.

Some also believe that rain on Good Friday is a sign of a good harvest in the coming year, which, if true, could give many farmers in the beleaguered South something to smile about as the first drops were felt shortly before midnight this year. "The thing I'm looking forward to the most is all the chocolate and Easter eggs," said Tamar, 29, excitedly. Mother of two Ghada Merhi insisted that she enjoys Easter as much as her children. "I don't get stressed out at all with the preparations," she said. "I enjoy running around and coloring the eggs ... and the children absolutely love the chocolate ... Lunch on Sunday is with the family. It has always been like that."

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