Eid il-Burbara, or Saint Barbara's Day is Lebanon's answer to Halloween.
Though mostly a Lebanese tradition, Eid il-Burbara is also celebrated in Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Turkey.
St. Barbara's story has many versions, and everyone celebrates differently, but typically this is what happened, and these are the festivities people participate in.
1. St Barbara was a beautiful woman with a horrible story
Barbara was a martyr who lived in the 4th century in Heliopolis, now known as Baalbeck, a town in modern-day East Lebanon.
She was extraordinarily beautiful and her father built a tower to hide her from suitors. From the tower, there was a view of hills stretching into the distance. It was there that Barbara decided to convert to Christianity. A merchant disguised as a priest baptized her.
Upon learning of her conversion, Barbara's father grew furious and almost killed her with a sword. She ran away from him and hid in the hills and fields and disguised her. However, he caught her, and she was tortured publicly in the city.
2. Our festivities consist of costumes to commemorate her disguise
On the 3rd of December, kids dress up in masks and scary costumes to symbolize Saint Barbara disguising herself as many different characters to elude her father and the Romans who were looking for her.
They trick-or-treat from door to door as they chant a song called Heshle Burbara, while shaking tambourines and hitting a table (a large drum) to announce their arrival.
They used to be given the Burbara food spoken about earlier (sounds like it would be messy...) but now are given sweets like in the western Halloween tradition. Jack-o' lanterns are also a western tradition that can be seen.
3. We honor her with food
On the 4th of December, we boil wheat grains ('ameh) and add pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar, to make what is called Burbara. Other food eaten on Eid il-Burbara are fruitcake, atayef with ashta (cream) and walnuts (like the ones in Ramadan), sneyniyeh.
4. The earth helped St. Barbara escape her dad
Another legend connected to St. Barbara is that when she was fleeing, she ran through freshly planted wheat fields, which grew instantly to cover her path.
This miracle is recreated symbolically today by planting wheat seeds in cotton wool on Eid il-Burbara . The seeds grow and by Christmas time, the shoots are used to decorate the nativity scene usually placed below the Christmas tree.