Baby Stephen's Baptism

In Lebanon, sacramental events like baptism, first Holy Communion, and marriage can easily spiral into lavish affairs. Lebanese love to celebrate big, and that kind of festive spirit extends even to deeply religious occasions. Modesty is rarely the motif!

Contrarily, my husband and I tend to be understated in our approach. Two weeks ago, we baptized our seven-month-old son Stephen in the presence of an intimate few. The ceremony was beautiful and symbolic; the lunch reception following it, chic and idyllic; and the keepsakes, lovingly handcrafted with ornate detail. If I were to describe the day in two words, it would be elegant subtlety, and we wanted Stephen’s first sacrament to embody that.


The Ceremony

St. Paul’s Basilica in Harissa holds monumental significance to our family. It was where Jimmy and I united in holy matrimony over three and a half years ago. It was the church in which Jimmy himself was baptized some three decades ago. And it is where we wished to christen our firstborn child in the presence of the very priest, Père Jacques, who christened Jimmy.

The cathedral, often overlooked by pilgrims making their passage to Our Lady of Harissa, is grand and breathtakingly ornate. Ascend its steps, enter the vestibule, and prepare to be overwhelmed with intricate majesty. Wooden and golden elements adorn every corner of the church. The edifice is stunning, but the interior is an artistic masterpiece which evokes my recollections of St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican.

Stephen was calm and thoroughly enjoying himself throughout the ceremony, much to our relief. My younger brother John Paul and Jimmy’s sister Tania acted as his godparents, and their roles were pretty much cut out for them thanks to Stephen's uncanny composure! He watched Père Jacques with intent focus, and when stripped down and placed in the giant gilded chalice – the baptism basin – it was evident he did not want to be removed!



Stephen was quite content to sit in the chalice basin


He was visibly annoyed to be removed from the water bath


Our family of three. Note the stunning artwork in the background!




The Reception

There was no question as to where to host lunch following the baptism. If there’s any one venue exemplary of elegant subtlety, it’s Le Gray Hotel situated in the heart of the Beirut Central District. It’s modern. It’s swanky. And Sunday lunch at Indigo on the Roof is absolutely sublime on all three counts: cuisine, service, and ambiance.

We’d given it a go just a month before and were mesmerized with the endless array of fresh, inspiring dishes. Equally noteworthy are the outdoor terrace peering over the historic downtown area and the spirited staff members constantly at one’s beck and call.

The day of Stephen’s baptism was no exception; in fact, we noticed the buffet had even received a splash of polish! Perhaps the biggest struggle is deciding where to begin, but I usually make a beeline for the cheese display without delay, which at Indigo boasts European varieties as enticing as English Stilton, French Tomme de Savoie, and Spanish Murcian wine cheese.



A dazzling array of charcuterie and cheese



I then find my way to the salad section, where there are both raw ingredients and tossed assortments of veggies and protein. A Levantine corner features classic mezza like tabbouleh, baba ghannouj, okra in tomato sauce, and spicy potato cubes. Seafood lovers will relish oysters, sashimi and sushi. Mains comprise a tender, juicy, and perfectly pink prime rib, in addition to sea bass baked in banana leaves. Cauliflower gratin blanketed with cheese and silky mashed potato kissed with olive oil are essential sides – just be sure to check your diet at the door.



Salads and Levantine mezza



For a bit of international flair, Indian cuisine can be had at Indigo, with deep-fried samosas, butter chicken, palak paneer, daal makhni, and biryani. At the Italian stand, pasta bowls are prepared à la minute, but if you’d rather not wait, peek into the serving trays – tortellini in rosé sauce will render you a happy diner. France is present in the form of moules et frites (mussels and fries), as is Mexico, with its mini burritos and guacamole.



Indian butter chicken



Moules et frites, or mussels and fries



What genuinely takes the cake is in fact the cake, or to be precise, the entire dessert display. Hallmarks of Indigo include an unrivaled baklawa cheesecake, homemade ashta ice cream, dense chocolate fudge loaf, and a five-tiered chocolate fountain decked with delicious strawberries, brownie bites, and marshmallows.



Decadent desserts and fresh fruit



Chocolate fudge loaf -- pair it with homemade vanilla bean ice cream



A chocolate fountain to entice both adults and kids


The luxurious Sunday buffet, which packs in a welcome Prosecco or Bellini, water, coffee, and bottomless soft drinks, is USD 60 per person, which for a five-star property tucked in the epicenter of Beirut is impressively reasonable. Add to that stellar views, an outdoor oasis, and smart service, and there's really no finer. 



Stephen slicing his cake, with some assistance from Mommy and Daddy



The Souvenirs

To commit this sacred day to memory, we wanted to offer souvenirs to our guests. Ever since I stumbled upon Golden Fingers - Chocolate & More in Mansourieh, I’ve been waiting for an appropriate occasion to enlist the creative genius of Rachel Krayem. What I absolutely love about Rachel is her ability to translate vague notions and ideas into concrete elaborate creations.

Without embellishing, I spent a total of ten minutes in her shop, relaying the elegant subtlety we aimed to capture, and suggesting a gold-and-ivory theme. Rachel did the rest, piecing together a sample souvenir incorporating all desired elements and adorning matching candles for the church service. 



We opted for ivory and gold accents for both the keepsakes and candles

Candles and souvenirs were crafted by Golden Fingers


Needless to say, Stephen was smitten with the lit candles!


Honestly, I cannot recommend Golden Fingers enough. Rarely can you rely on someone so blindly, someone who takes charge with little guidance and who can dress up simplicity with sophistication.



Closing Remarks

Planning Stephen’s baptism came together surprisingly seamlessly and with minimal effort from our end. In fact, the biggest challenge was savoring each moment, because it transpired so swiftly that we could hardly rein it in.

Thankfully, loads of photos, the customized keepsakes and candles, and Stephen’s dapper ensemble will conjure up memories of this celebration for years to come. That, and hopefully a repetition of the day, down to the tried and true trifecta of church, reception venue, and souvenirs, will ensure we relive it once (or twice) more!



When Stephen grows older, we'll offer him a souvenir from his baptism for his own safekeeping!



+961 1 972 000

Main Road, Mansourieh el Metn
+961 70 123 551

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