Lebanese Levee

Talking from Experiences by Ashleigh Tremere

The Bellyismas captivated and interacted with the audience
Photo by Ashleigh Tremere

I love a good celebration of a people’s culture and the Lebanese community of PEI definitely knows how to celebrate their heritage. On January 13, I had the absolute pleasure of attending my first Annual Lebanese New Year’s Levee at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel in Charlottetown. The evening’s Emcee, Nick Tweel, called it “the most formal, informal night of the year”and I’m inclined to agree with the sentiment. 

Being someone who is usually found in very comfortable and mostly casual attire,with a makeup routine that’s limited to mascara and lipgloss, I found myself very excited at the idea of a fancy night out. I mean it was a New Year’s celebration after all, and from what I previously knew of the evening, borrowing a classy dress and having my teenager use her makeup skills on me, would be in order.

Engaging in these acts of preparation were made even more enjoyable by putting on a little online fashion show for some friends to get their opinions on the right dress choice. They did not disappoint with their help and encouragement. 

The event itself is very much a collaborative effort of the Canadian Lebanese Association of PEI and its members. The delicious, traditional cuisine is always prepared and served by members of the community. I think that really adds an extra personal layer of unity to an evening that is, in its essence, one of connection to and celebration of heritage. This can be a difficult task when immersed and living in another country. The first Lebanese people came to PEI over a century ago. They are represented now throughout integral levels of community, business and government. It’s a profound thing to see that after such an expanse of time they remain rooted in their history and are gracious in sharing it with the other communities that weave the fabric of this Island. 

I had never actually watched a belly dancing performance and The Bellyismas, with their captivating attire, really put on an entrancing and engaging show. Interacting with young and old alike, they enticed very willing participants to join them up on the dance floor and then seamlessly returned to an expertly executed performance.

Lebanese singer Edy Bendaly similarly had no trouble encouraging the crowd out of their seats. The dance floor was full almost immediately and pretty much remained that way. My feet quickly reminded me that they had no business being in heels and are more accustomed to dancing barefoot in fields. But the music called to the crowd and hundreds answered, dancing and singing along enthusiastically. 

I didn’t get to see DJ Milo C’s performance, so I can only assume that based on the slideshow from previous years, the crowd continued to celebrate and dance right up to the end.

The Lebanese Levee has taken place annually on PEI for 61 years, so it is very likely that there will be an opportunity for any interested persons to attend in the future. Buy your tickets early as the event is known to sell out. You’ll leave with a smile on your face, sore feet, and a full belly.