December 4: Feast of Saint Barbara – Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian

December 4: Feast of Saint Barbara – Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian


Saint Barbara’s day, or Eid il-Burbara, is celebrated in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. The traditional food served on St Barbara’s feastday is Burbara, a sweet made of boiled wheat, grains, and fruit. Another traditional dish is Atayef, stuffed pancakes filled with nuts.

On this feastday, children dress up in disguise and go house-to-house singing songs and receiving festive foods. Although this may sound similar to the Halloween custom of ‘trick-or-treat’, this is custom has a very different history. It is instead based on the story that St. Barbara disguised herself from the Romans when attempting to flee.

Wheat seeds growing for Saint Barbara in Middle EastAnother legend states that while running frantically from her father, St Barbara ran through a freshly planted wheat field, which grew instantly, covering her path. This miracle is commemorated today by the symbolic planting of wheat seeds, beans, or other grains in cotton wool on St Barbara’s feastday. The seeds germinate and grow into rich, green bunches by Christmas and are used to decorate the church.

(With thanks to

20 servings

500g husked wheat
500g raisins
500g dried apricots
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons fennel
2 teaspoons anise
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of cloves
Crushed walnuts
Almonds (peeled, halved, soaked in hot water)
20 tablespoons sugar (optional according to taste)
Pomegranate seeds

1. Wash wheat and soak overnight. Drain, place in a pot and cover it with cold water to 2cm above wheat. Boil water until wheat is tender. Then add the spices and sugar.
2. Wash raisins, dice apricots and add to the boiling mix. Boil for another 10 minutes.
3. Serve hot with almonds and crushed walnuts; top with semi-sweet pomegranate seeds.

Recipe sourced and adapted from

Makes 20

7g sachet dried yeast
2 tsp caster sugar
225g (1½ cups) plain flour, sifted
vegetable oil, to deep-fry

Walnut filling
100g (1 cup) walnuts, roasted, finely chopped
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp rosewater

Rosewater syrup
440g (2 cups) caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp rosewater

1. To make the walnut filling, combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

2. Place yeast, sugar, and 125 ml warm water in a large bowl then stir to combine. Stand in a warm place for 5 minutes or until it begins to bubble. Add flour and 250 ml warm water, and whisk until smooth. Stand in a warm place for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, to make rosewater syrup, place sugar and 375 ml water in a saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, then add lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes or until reduced by one-third. Stir in rosewater, then remove from heat and leave to cool.

4. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Grease, then, working quickly, spread 2 tbsp batter into a 10 cm circle. Cook for 3 minutes or until bubbles form and surface is almost dry. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter. Place 1 tbsp walnut filling in centre of pancakes. Fold in half to enclose, pressing edges to seal.

5. Fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan one-third full with oil and heat over medium heat to 180°C. Working in batches of four, drop pancakes into the oil and fry, turning halfway, for 4 minutes or until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, dip into rosewater syrup for 30 seconds, then transfer to a plate. Serve scattered with reserved walnut filling.

Recipe sourced and adapted from


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Chris Vlahonasios

Chris Vlahonasios is the owner of Transfigure Media and founder of the Byazanfest film festival, the world’s only online Orthodox Christian film festival streaming the very best short and feature-length films.