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!