Berbara is our Halloween. It happens on the night of December 4th and it’s when the kids in different neighborhoods wear costumes (or more typically, simple masks) and walk around, knocking on doors singing a song for St. Barbara – the origin of this amazing tradition.
St. Barbara’s story is a mesmerizing one that haunts me every year (even though I’m all grown up, masks still scare me a little 😉 ).
There are different versions of St. Barbara’s story depending on where it is told. Basically, Barbara was the daughter of a very rich pagan man. She decided to convert to Christianism after hearing the preaching of Jesus Christ and was punished for it by the King, who imprisoned her and ordered her dead. But before she was killed, she miraculously managed to run away, and kept on going using different masks to disguise herself and fool the soldiers. For food and shelter, she relied on her faith in humanity and the kindness of stangers. One day, she reached a blocking mountain in Syria, and long story short, the mountain was hit by lightning and she made her way to a safe, free and peaceful life.
The best thing about Berbara is that both Christians and Muslims unite to celebrate since Berbara comes right before the beginning of Islam.
In all countries that celebrate this holiday, the traditions are all the same. Children gather with costumes (typically clothes borrowed from their parents) and different masks – so as to commemorate the way Barbara ran away with disguises – knocking on neighborhood doors asking for treats.
Getting to the good stuff, the best thing about Berbara is the sweets that are handmade and sold around the villages and cities. The main ones are: ‘ameh, ‘atayef, mshabak, oouwaymet, maakroun. We’re making ‘ameh tonight, and I promise the recipe tomorrow, along with the atayef recipe!
For those of you who are close to Ashrafieh, the best places to go and buy these sweets are: Wardy and Hanna Mitri. Ask around for directions, everybody knows them.
Meanwhile, you can memorize these lyrics to sing along this Thursday night 😀
Maa banet el harra,
Aariftah min aaynayha,
W min lafet edayha,
W min haki el 2iswara,