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Saint Barbara's Day is a holiday annually celebrated on December 4 among Middle Eastern Christians in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. Traditionally, adults and children wearing disguises go around houses in the villages dancing and singing the story of Saint Barbara; and in each house, they are offered food specially prepared for that feast (and sometimes money). It is celebrated in honor of the Christian Saint and Martyr Saint Barbara, who disguised herself as many different characters to elude the Romans who were persecuting her. It was believed she was miraculously saved from persecution while fleeing: She ran through freshly planted wheat fields, which grew instantly to cover her path.

This miracle is celebrated symbolically by planting wheat seeds (or chick peas, barley grains, beans, lentils, etc.) in cotton wool on Saint Barbara’s feast day. The seeds germinate and grow up to around 6 inches in time for Christmas, when the shoots are used to decorate the nativity scene usually placed below the Christmas tree.

The traditional food made on this feast is Barbara, a bowl of boiled wheat grains, raisins, anise and sugar, also dough that is filled with walnuts or cheese.



2 cups wheat berries

2 liters water 8 cups

1 liter water 4 cups, this is in addition to the water above

1 cup sugar you may substitute partially with honey

1 cup raisins

2 tablespoon ground anise seeds

2 tablespoon ground fennel seeds

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

2/3 cup chopped whole almonds with skin

1/2 cup pine nuts



1- Clean the wheat berries by removing any stones or derbies. Measure 2 cups cleaned berries then wash very well with water. Put in colander to drain.

2- Place the wheat berries and the 2 liters of water in a pot with all the spices and boil for 1 hour, mixing every 15 minutes so that the berries don’t stick to the bottom of the port. Turn off the fire and set aside to cool for 5-6 hours. You will notice that the berries will absorb much of the water.

3- Chop the walnuts and the almonds.

4- Add the remaining water, sugar, raisins, spices and nuts, Bring to boil then simmer for 20-30 minutes. If the porridge thickens a lot you may add some additional water.

Garnish with nuts or pomegranate seeds.


Lara Khouli