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Why celebrate the Lebanese festival?

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This weekend marks the 15th annual Lebanese festival held in downtown Raleigh. The Triangle Lebanese Association has done a wonderful job promoting this event, so check out their website for details. The Khayrallah Program for Lebanese Studies will also have a table! Stop by and say hello!

 

Beginning in 1998, the Festival seeks to celebrate Lebanese culture and cuisine, which is closely tied to land, family and work. So, why celebrate the festival? And who are the NC Lebanese anyway?

Between 1880 and 1920 over 360,000 left Lebanon for the United States. A third of these immigrants came to the United States. Some left to escape difficult family circumstances. Few were escaping political repression, while others left seeking adventure. However, the great majority emigrated because of an economic crisis gripping the country. Global prices of silk, the major export of the country and the source of livelihood for most Lebanese, was plummeting and causing strain on livelihoods of many Lebanese.  So, first in tens, then hundreds and then by the thousands they boarded steamboats for the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Central America.

Decades later at the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1974, over 1 million Lebanese emigrated to escape the violence of their country. Today, North Carolina is home to approximately 15,000 citizens who are of Lebanese descent.  According to the American Community Survey (ACS) conducted in 2011, North Carolina is home to approximately 30,000 Arab-identified residents and those of Lebanese descent claim the largest population.  There are concentrations of Lebanese communities in the Triangle-area,Charlotte, New Bern, Salisbury, Goldsboro, Roanoke Rapids and Greenville.

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