Most public holidays celebrate religious occasions, and because of the country's numerous religious denominations, Lebanon has a large number of public holidays observed by some or all of the population.
The major secular holiday celebrated by all is New Year's. People mark the occasion with parties at home. On the stroke of midnight, pandemonium breaks out: car horns honk and down at the docks, ship horns blare. People and cars pack the streets. Other national holidays include Independence Day, on which people remember their freedom from French rule with speeches, parades and flags. Martyrs' Day honours nationalists who were executed by the Turks during World War I.
Islamic holidays follow the lunar calendar and thus fall on different days each year. The most important celebration occurs at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. On the first day of the next month, Muslims break their fast with the Eid-al-Fitr feast. People wear new clothes and celebrate the end of spiritual cleansing. After prayers at the mosque, people visit family and friends, carrying gifts of sweets and children receive small gifts of money from family friends and relatives. A similar holiday occurs at the end of the aladha, the traditional period for making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims observe many of the same holidays, though Shi'ites also celebrate days for particular imams in history.
For most Lebanese Christians, Easter is as important as Christmas. On Easter Sunday and Monday, people feast and take sweets such as chocolates to friends and family. Easter visits often extend to week-long holidays for visiting friends and relatives in distant places. In villages with a large Christian population, another important annual occasion is the celebration of the patron saint's day. Each village has a different patron saint, who is believed to offer protection. On the saint's day, people usually decorate the local church and hold a procession that includes a statue of the saint.