NORMAN — Chris and Ashley Fleming brought their children William, 3, and Ainsley, 11 months, to the Lebanese Heritage and Food Festival because they wanted to expose them to a different culture.
“It's been great. We got to sample the food, listen to music and see performances, to understand more of the culture, and the similarities and differences. It exposes the kids to something other than the homogeneous world we live in,” Chris Fleming said.
The festival hosted Saturday by Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church featured traditional Lebanese songs, dances, food and a chance to learn a sampling of the language.
“It's a tradition in all our Maronite churches for us to celebrate Lebanese culture once a year in a festival,” said the Rev. Sami Chaaya. “We try to bring our culture alive wherever we are.”
Despite unseasonably cold weather for part of the day, the festival drew a large crowd of people eager to immerse themselves in a new culture or celebrate their own Lebanese heritage.
The event kicked off with members of the University of Oklahoma's Lebanese Student Association performing a “dabkeh,” a traditional Middle Eastern dance similar to step dancing.
According to folklore, the style of dancing originated when people would stomp clay onto their wooden roofs to insulate them.
One of the dancers, Hiba Baroud, is an OU industrial engineering major and president of the Lebanese Student Association.
“It really gives people an idea of what Lebanon is and who the Lebanese people are,” she said.