Maaloula's Festival in the Feast of the Holy Cross

In the Christian calendar, there are several different Feasts of the Cross, all of which commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus. Unlike Good Friday, which is dedicated to the passion of Christ and the crucifixion, these feast days celebrate the cross itself, as the sign of salvation. In Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism, and here in Syria, especially in Malloulavillag, the day of commemoration is September 14.

Maaloula, with an altitude of more than 1500 meters, is unique because it is one of the few places where the ancient Aramaic language, as spoken by Christ, is still used and taught as a living language. There are two convents in the city which are Mar Sarkis and Mar Taqla, where Muslim and Christian pilgrims go to gain blessings and make offerings.

The celebration dates back to 320 AD, when Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, sent officials to Jerusalem to find the Holy relic of the cross on Mount Golgotha, which they did on 14 September.

As a way of alerting the emperor to the news , fires were lit on every mountain top to publicize that they got the cross back from the Persians at that time, as a way to get the news to Jerusalem.

And that is why today is the celebration about raising the cross.

That is because when Emperor Constantine got the cross back from the Persians at that time, he asked that a fire be lit on every mountain top as a way to get the news to Jerusalem.

Many Syrian cities celebrate the day but Maaloula's Christian residents still organize the largest festival each year because they believe the village's small mountain top was one on which a fire was lit.

As part of the celebration, people gather in the town square then climb to the highest point of Maaloula's mountain in order to erect the cross and light a fire.

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross is celebrated the day before and throughout the day, the city takes a festive air where crowds gather to sing and dance together. The women prepare tea, as well as the dinner for family and friends.Children throw firecrackers, the music gets louder, many dance on their balconies or crowd the main street or sing.

Fireworks, firecrackers, and tires are thrown from the top of the mountain.Cries of joy resound from everywhere.

The holy cross is lighting up the mountain of Maloulla and the crosses are illuminating the houses all around the village.

Maaloula has such beautiful, local and unique traditions, has deep history, and whose people are proud and strong. They always welcome you warmly, dance and sing along with you. For centuries, Maaloula was the center of this celebration, with pilgrims and faithful gathering each year from around Syria and the world.


Lara Khouli