Swap Halloween for Saint Barbara's Day: It's not a trick, but a treat!

Published October 30th, 2016 - 18:24 GMT

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Today is Halloween, the Western-hatched holiday of raucous parties and ridiculous costumes that lampoon celebrities (Trump masks loom large), incite fear (faux wounds and ghouls), and aim to attract attention (why, hello there, Sexy Kitten!). Parties and parades are popular with ex-pats, but not so much with conservative locals.  In fact, in 2014 Jordan’s Ministry of Interior banned Halloween parties, and costumed revelers risked arrest. 

But don’t throw away that gorilla suit just yet! 

Saint Barbara’s Day, or Eid il Burbara, is an Arab Christian holiday celebrated on December 4th across the Levant in honor of early Christian martyr Saint Barbara. Believed to have donned disguises to foil her Roman persecutors, Lebanese and Syrian Christians now wear masks and fancy dress, to commemorate her flight - creating an ersatz Halloween. It's celebrated to a lesser extent in Jordan, Palestine and Israel, with Muslim milennials increasingly taking part.

Check out our primer on this little-known festival. Then tell us if it's a trick or a treat!

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Similarities between Halloween and Saint Barbara's Day are many. Both have ancient roots, and take place in autumn. Both incorporate pumpkins and gourds as decorations. In modern times, it's mainly children who participate, dressing up in masks and costumes to knock on neighborhood doors in search of sweets.
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Image 1 of 8:  1 / 8Similarities between Halloween and Saint Barbara's Day are many. Both have ancient roots, and take place in autumn. Both incorporate pumpkins and gourds as decorations. In modern times, it's mainly children who participate, dressing up in masks and costumes to knock on neighborhood doors in search of sweets.

Enlarge
There are different spins on her story, which has its origins in First Century Baalbek.. Born into what's now modern-day Turkey, Barbara is believed to have been murdered on December 4 by her aristocratic and pagan father for refusing to renounce Christianity and for rejecting an arranged marriage. No bride costume for her!
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Image 2 of 8:  2 / 8There are different spins on her story, which has its origins in First Century Baalbek.. Born into what's now modern-day Turkey, Barbara is believed to have been murdered on December 4 by her aristocratic and pagan father for refusing to renounce Christianity and for rejecting an arranged marriage. No bride costume for her!

Enlarge
As royal punishment for her faith in Jesus, she was sent to a tower prison, where she nurtured a branch from a cherry tree. On the day she died, that branch blossomed. Ever since, believers bring cherry branches into their homes on December 4. If the branch blooms on Christmas, it means good luck, and a promise of marriage in the year ahead.
Reduce

Image 3 of 8:  3 / 8As royal punishment for her faith in Jesus, she was sent to a tower prison, where she nurtured a branch from a cherry tree. On the day she died, that branch blossomed. Ever since, believers bring cherry branches into their homes on December 4. If the branch blooms on Christmas, it means good luck, and a promise of marriage in the year ahead.

Enlarge
Before her death, spunky Barbara escaped prison and fled through freshly planted wheat fields that miraculously rose up around her, concealing her path. The actions of the wheat account for the sweet dish traditionally linked with Saint Barbara's Day in Syria, qatayef, which is made from boiled wheat, cinnamon, anise and nuts.
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Image 4 of 8:  4 / 8Before her death, spunky Barbara escaped prison and fled through freshly planted wheat fields that miraculously rose up around her, concealing her path. The actions of the wheat account for the sweet dish traditionally linked with Saint Barbara's Day in Syria, qatayef, which is made from boiled wheat, cinnamon, anise and nuts.

Enlarge
Burbara is another traditional food for the occasion. It's a dish made from boiled wheat berries or barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar. Walnuts or almonds can be added. But this porridge is losing in popularity with Saint Barbara trick-or-treaters against common candy bars and chocolates.
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Image 5 of 8:  5 / 8Burbara is another traditional food for the occasion. It's a dish made from boiled wheat berries or barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar. Walnuts or almonds can be added. But this porridge is losing in popularity with Saint Barbara trick-or-treaters against common candy bars and chocolates.

Enlarge
This saint is often shown next to a tower (where was imprisoned) and a lightning bolt (which killed her father after he killed her). Her name is invoked as protection from lightning, storms, and sudden death. She's the patron saint of miners, artillerymen, fireworks manufacturers, and firemen -  which also make for good costume ideas.
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Image 6 of 8:  6 / 8This saint is often shown next to a tower (where was imprisoned) and a lightning bolt (which killed her father after he killed her). Her name is invoked as protection from lightning, storms, and sudden death. She's the patron saint of miners, artillerymen, fireworks manufacturers, and firemen - which also make for good costume ideas.

Enlarge
Some lament the demise of old customs, when children would compete to collect small amounts of wheat, bulgur, lentils, and eggs. Now the prize is candy and money, and dress-up has moved from simple face masks to expensive and Western-influenced costumes. Lebanese, Turkish, and (before the war) Syrian hotels also host fancy dress events.
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Image 7 of 8:  7 / 8Some lament the demise of old customs, when children would compete to collect small amounts of wheat, bulgur, lentils, and eggs. Now the prize is candy and money, and dress-up has moved from simple face masks to expensive and Western-influenced costumes. Lebanese, Turkish, and (before the war) Syrian hotels also host fancy dress events.

Enlarge
Naughty songs are a hallmark of Halloween; 'Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!' Saint Barbara has it's own quirky songs. Kids happy with the handout may chant, 'Arghileh over Arghileh, the homeowner is rich,' or  if the treats are sub-par, 'Adlieh over Adlieh, the homeowner is stingy.' Have a happy Saint Barbara's Day!
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Image 8 of 8:  8 / 8Naughty songs are a hallmark of Halloween; "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!" Saint Barbara has it's own quirky songs. Kids happy with the handout may chant, "Arghileh over Arghileh, the homeowner is rich," or if the treats are sub-par, "Adlieh over Adlieh, the homeowner is stingy." Have a happy Saint Barbara's Day!

Enlarge

1

Similarities between Halloween and Saint Barbara's Day are many. Both have ancient roots, and take place in autumn. Both incorporate pumpkins and gourds as decorations. In modern times, it's mainly children who participate, dressing up in masks and costumes to knock on neighborhood doors in search of sweets.

Image 1 of 8Similarities between Halloween and Saint Barbara's Day are many. Both have ancient roots, and take place in autumn. Both incorporate pumpkins and gourds as decorations. In modern times, it's mainly children who participate, dressing up in masks and costumes to knock on neighborhood doors in search of sweets.

2

There are different spins on her story, which has its origins in First Century Baalbek.. Born into what's now modern-day Turkey, Barbara is believed to have been murdered on December 4 by her aristocratic and pagan father for refusing to renounce Christianity and for rejecting an arranged marriage. No bride costume for her!

Image 2 of 8There are different spins on her story, which has its origins in First Century Baalbek.. Born into what's now modern-day Turkey, Barbara is believed to have been murdered on December 4 by her aristocratic and pagan father for refusing to renounce Christianity and for rejecting an arranged marriage. No bride costume for her!

3

As royal punishment for her faith in Jesus, she was sent to a tower prison, where she nurtured a branch from a cherry tree. On the day she died, that branch blossomed. Ever since, believers bring cherry branches into their homes on December 4. If the branch blooms on Christmas, it means good luck, and a promise of marriage in the year ahead.

Image 3 of 8As royal punishment for her faith in Jesus, she was sent to a tower prison, where she nurtured a branch from a cherry tree. On the day she died, that branch blossomed. Ever since, believers bring cherry branches into their homes on December 4. If the branch blooms on Christmas, it means good luck, and a promise of marriage in the year ahead.

4

Before her death, spunky Barbara escaped prison and fled through freshly planted wheat fields that miraculously rose up around her, concealing her path. The actions of the wheat account for the sweet dish traditionally linked with Saint Barbara's Day in Syria, qatayef, which is made from boiled wheat, cinnamon, anise and nuts.

Image 4 of 8Before her death, spunky Barbara escaped prison and fled through freshly planted wheat fields that miraculously rose up around her, concealing her path. The actions of the wheat account for the sweet dish traditionally linked with Saint Barbara's Day in Syria, qatayef, which is made from boiled wheat, cinnamon, anise and nuts.

5

Burbara is another traditional food for the occasion. It's a dish made from boiled wheat berries or barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar. Walnuts or almonds can be added. But this porridge is losing in popularity with Saint Barbara trick-or-treaters against common candy bars and chocolates.

Image 5 of 8Burbara is another traditional food for the occasion. It's a dish made from boiled wheat berries or barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar. Walnuts or almonds can be added. But this porridge is losing in popularity with Saint Barbara trick-or-treaters against common candy bars and chocolates.

6

This saint is often shown next to a tower (where was imprisoned) and a lightning bolt (which killed her father after he killed her). Her name is invoked as protection from lightning, storms, and sudden death. She's the patron saint of miners, artillerymen, fireworks manufacturers, and firemen -  which also make for good costume ideas.

Image 6 of 8This saint is often shown next to a tower (where was imprisoned) and a lightning bolt (which killed her father after he killed her). Her name is invoked as protection from lightning, storms, and sudden death. She's the patron saint of miners, artillerymen, fireworks manufacturers, and firemen - which also make for good costume ideas.

7

Some lament the demise of old customs, when children would compete to collect small amounts of wheat, bulgur, lentils, and eggs. Now the prize is candy and money, and dress-up has moved from simple face masks to expensive and Western-influenced costumes. Lebanese, Turkish, and (before the war) Syrian hotels also host fancy dress events.

Image 7 of 8Some lament the demise of old customs, when children would compete to collect small amounts of wheat, bulgur, lentils, and eggs. Now the prize is candy and money, and dress-up has moved from simple face masks to expensive and Western-influenced costumes. Lebanese, Turkish, and (before the war) Syrian hotels also host fancy dress events.

8

Naughty songs are a hallmark of Halloween; 'Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!' Saint Barbara has it's own quirky songs. Kids happy with the handout may chant, 'Arghileh over Arghileh, the homeowner is rich,' or  if the treats are sub-par, 'Adlieh over Adlieh, the homeowner is stingy.' Have a happy Saint Barbara's Day!

Image 8 of 8Naughty songs are a hallmark of Halloween; "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!" Saint Barbara has it's own quirky songs. Kids happy with the handout may chant, "Arghileh over Arghileh, the homeowner is rich," or if the treats are sub-par, "Adlieh over Adlieh, the homeowner is stingy." Have a happy Saint Barbara's Day!

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