Eid il-Burbara (St Barbara's Day)

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a Muslim Syrian refugee, who had celebrated Eid il-Burbara with Syrian friends on Monday (4th Dec). As she doesn't speak fluent English, and I speak no Arabic, the conversation was stilted.

Wikipedia confirms that Eid il-Burbara is celebrated by Middle Eastern Christians, but makes no mention of Muslims.

What I think I understood from the conversation I had is that St Barbara has become part of the culture, perhaps in the way that St Nicholas has become Santa Claus.

I'd be fascinated to know more about Eid il-Burbara.

Comments

  • St Barbara is said to have been born in modern Turkey and became Christian as a young woman. Her father was furious when he learned that she had been baptised and built a tower in which he imprisoned her. When she refused to give way she was taken to the local governor and put to death after bitter torture. Her name was in the Middle Ages in the list of the 14 'Holy helpers' - a group of saints who could be called upon in almost every necessity. Her cult became important and widespread in Silesia, Saxony and Bohemia and in many Central European coal mining areas where Barbara was the patron saint of coal miners. She is often portrayed standing beside a tower. In the Rhineland she is often associated also with St Nicholas. It is still a tradition on St Barbara's day to take parts of plants from the garden, place them in a vase and wait for them to blossom at Christmas time.
    Since her existence cannot be verified independently her name was removed from the Roman calendar in the changes of the 1970s,but her day is still celebrated, even liturgically, in a number of more local versions of the standard Roman calendar. She has been replaced in the general calendar on 4th December by St John Damascene (of Damascus) which is also connected with Syria. Eid Mubarak ! (Happy Feast day !)
  • After writing the above I looked up some of the article about Eid al Burbara and noted the similarities with the Celtic Hallowe'en.The custom of children disguising themselves and going round the doors asking for treats is common in Austria and in Spain on 28th December (day of the Holy Innocents )
  • Thanks, Forthview. I'm curious to know whether celebration of Eid il-Burbara has moved outwith the Christian community, which is what I thought I was being told yesterday. The Muslim woman I was speaking to said that she had made a special dish out of barley, decorated with Smarties. She said that at one point St Barbara had fled from her father and hidden in a field of barley; which is why a special barley dish is eaten on Eid il-Burbara.

  • (If Muslim Syrian refugee children expect Christians to supply them with sweeties on 4 December, then I will gladly do so next year. But yesterday's conversation was in broken English, and I'm not sure I understood properly.)
  • Muslims share many popular traditions with Christians. I don't know how widespread Eid al burbara would be amongst Muslims,but one tends to have traditions which become in course of time attached to stories.In Abu Dhabi ,where I am fairly often ,there is a mosque right beside the Catholic church which is dedicated to Mary,Mother of Jesus. The story of the miraculous birth of Jesus is well known and part of Muslim tradition.
  • In France Saint Barbara is the patron saint of firemen. I only just discovered that despite France being secular, a huge mass is usually celebrated locally.
  • Our local Garrison Church (owned and run by the Army, with a military chaplain in charge) is dedicated to St. Barbara.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Brazilians who adhere to Candomblé or Umbanda religions identify Saint Barbara with Iansã, the orixá of winds and storms. So they celebrated her feast this week. Eparrey!
  • Could you elaborate on that LeRoc? St Barbara's day is used to celebrate a pagan deity which has become associated with the saint? What are points of cross over? What form does the celebration take? Are there other instances of cross over which are celebrated on saints days, other than Barbara?
  • As well as being patron saint of firefighters,(alongside St Florian) St Barbara has a huge host of other people whom she has to help - builders of towers and architects in general, coal miners, peasants, builders and roofers, masons and workers in stone, bellringers and bellmakers, joiners and blacksmiths. She is also patron saint of prisoners, patron saint of young maidens/virgins, patron saint of the dying, as well as that of grave diggers.


    I can't elaborate on the point which Le Roc has made but many Christian festivals,such as Christmas and Epiphany ,at least as far as the date goes have been built on pre Christian/pagan festivals .

    For us in Scotland we know ,for example ,that Hallowe'en is built around the traditions concerning All Hallows' day/All Saints' day. The date for All Saints' day was chosen because of the Celtic New Year festival on the 1st November. In turn in Scotland, anyway, due to the Reformation the religious significance of the day was lost and reverted to earlier pagan/pre Christian ideas. As Hallowe'en has been transported over the Atlantic and returned in the last 15 years to mainland Europe it has been introduced as a popular American festival which has nothing to do with Christianity. The bonfires of 5th November in the UK are again simply a transference of the light festivals of the 1st November, given new life with the story of the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes.


    A little question for Eutychus : does the secular French state pay the salary of the prison chaplains or are they financed by their own religious organisations ?
  • Yes, I also know about the similarities between the pagan goddess Brigid and Saint Brigid / Bride and the connection between Imbolc and St Bride's Day.

    I was intrigued yesterday by Eid il-Burbara; the Syrian Muslim women were surprised that I, as a Christian, didn't know anything about it. I added to the confusion because when they spoke of the Christian celebration at this time of year, I assumed "Eid al-Burbara " was Arabic for "First Sunday in Advent"!
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    edited December 2018
    Could you elaborate on that LeRoc?
    First of all, I wouldn't use the word 'pagan'. It carries to many negative connotations.

    What happened is that when Africans were enslaved in Brazil and other countries, they were not allowed to venerate their orixás. So what they did, is they identified them with Catholic Saints. When they prayed to an image of Santa Barbara or made offerings to her, they were secretly venerating Iansã. After the generations followed on each other, and after the memories of Africa became more distant, these two kind of blended together.

    I'm invited to orixá feasts quite often, but I don't know everything there is to know about them. This is because some of the rituals are open to the non-initiated, but others are closed. I'm not in Brazil right now, but what they probably did for Iansã this week is wear her colours (red), eat her food (I don't know which that is), and hold a toque for her. They may have performed other rituals I don't know about.

    This kind of identification happened with all orixás, which com from the Yoruba tradition. There are between 15–30 of them, depending on the candomblé nation, and normally each is identified with a Catholic saint. The exact mapping between them has regional differences. Similar things happened in closely related religions like Santería on Cuba and Vodoun on Haiti.

    This Saturday, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, I will be bringing flowers to the sea as a gift to Iemanjá.
  • So ,Le Roc, do you identify with this religion, rather than with Christianity ?
    On the 8th of December the pope by tradition goes to the statue of the Immaculate Conception in the piazza di Spagna close by the Spanish steps. As for many years the Spanish Ambassador to Italy
    is present along with a goodly crowd of Romans and tourists. Since the statue is high up the local fire brigade will, during the night, have scaled up their ladders to present a floral tribute to the Virgin on her special feast day.Were you to be in Rome on this day would you bring flowers to the Blessed Virgin who might represent Iemanja' ?
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Forthview wrote: »
    So ,Le Roc, do you identify with this religion, rather than with Christianity ?
    I am a Christian. I am not an adherent of Candomblé, for the simple reason that I'm not initiated. Many of my friends are adherents, some of my close friends are Babalorixás.

    People from Candomblé call me a simpatizante. When I'm in Brazil, I usually spend a big part of my social life in these circles. I'm regularly invited to those rituals that are open to outsiders. Within these rituals I am sometimes a musician. Occasionally this means that I must undergo a cleansing ritual before I can play.

    Forthview wrote: »
    Were you to be in Rome on this day would you bring flowers to the Blessed Virgin who might represent Iemanja' ?
    I would probably throw the flowers into the sea (or for lack of it, another body of water), but yes.

    Many Brazilians don't see strict separating lines between Candomblé and Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism. Most Candomblé people I know frequent Mass. A friend of mine who is a Catholic priest often wears an orixá t-shirt below his collar.

    I figure that if God can be Three and One at the same time, She can also be fifteen. And even if I don't believe in Iemanjá in this way, that doesn't mean that I can't bring her a present.
  • Thanks for your answer,Le Roc. I too am able to be 'simpatizante' with people of other religions and cultures - part of it has to do with my job. I have,however, always understood that evangelicals find it difficult to reverence anyone or anything but Jesus Christ.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Forthview wrote: »
    I have,however, always understood that evangelicals find it difficult to reverence anyone or anything but Jesus Christ.
    That's one reason why it's good that I'm not an evangelical :smile:
  • Mea culpa ! I need to get out more and find out about religion in Brazil.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    edited December 2018
    Forthview wrote: »
    Mea culpa ! I need to get out more and find out about religion in Brazil.
    Ego te absolvo :smile:

    Yes, Brazilian religion is interesting. Sometimes it seems like they have tried everything, no matter how extreme, the good and the bad. In the past there have been Jesuit-indigenous quasi-independent proto-Marxist republics, and messianistic free states. There is Umbanda, Candomblé and a wealth of indigenous religions. Liberation Theology is not dead (I'm in contact with a couple of Base Groups). And of course, neo-pentecostalism and prosperity gospel can be rather extreme at times. Separation between religions is fluid, people easily glide from one into the other, or have two or more religions at the same time. It's fascinating.
  • Which would appear to be a fascinating (and instructive) subject! Thanks to @LeRoc for giving us some insights.
  • St. Barbara was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (q.v.) in medieval Yurp. Very highly thought of to have made that list.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited December 2018
    Forthview wrote: »
    A little question for Eutychus : does the secular French state pay the salary of the prison chaplains or are they financed by their own religious organisations ?
    Sorry, @Forthview, I missed this earlier.

    The answer is not straightforward but I'll try and make it short.

    The French principle of secularity means the state has a commitment to facilitate religious expression for those unable to attend a usual place of worship: practically speaking, this means for hospitals, the armed forces, and prisons.*

    Where they exist, tenured hospital chaplains are now hospital staff, paid for by the hospital.

    Tenured military chaplains are paid by the military in the same way as other military personnel.

    Some prison chaplains are paid, without the state employer making any social security contributions, as sessional workers BUT for Christian chaplains of all denominations, in an agreement with the authorities all of this money is paid on into a central pot to defray travel expenses, pay for training, and so on, so we don't see any of it as pay (or pay any income tax on it).

    At present this means we are effectively unpaid volunteers but required in theory to do a certain number of hours to secure our funding (this sounds about as stupid written down as it actually is, but there are some good reasons for it). Muslim chaplains are militating to be 'properly' paid, and since this arrangement would give the state better control of chaplaincy, it will probably end up becoming law, which will result in a big funding problem for chaplaincy activities for us.

    PM me if you'd like more details!

    *There are also official airport chaplains, at least at Charles de Gaulle (this is one of my fantasy jobs), and I recently discovered that the Catalans Dragons Rugby League club has a chaplain as it is a requirement of the Super League.
  • Many thanks, Eutychus, for your explanation. I have always seen the idea of secularity as the idea that the state is simply neutral in matters of religious beliefs of its citizens, but not necessarily against them. Of course in the past when religion was perhaps a hotter topic than it is now, there would be complaints if teachers wore a cross in public schools, but I think that in days of general indifference, these days are past.

    To my mind the Church has benefited greatly from the fact that the state took over ownership of and responsibility for the many religious buildings all over France. I know how much effort has to be made to maintain a church built after the separation of Church and State and am thankful that this is not the case for the great majority of religious buildings in France.


    Many thanks,Eutychus, for your varied contributions,which I always enjoy reading.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited December 2018
    My pleasure!

    The original founders of French secularity saw it as offering a level playing field for all religions and none - and with that in mind, as a commitment to providing equal access to belief (and lack of belief) for all. Times have of course changed, and this idea is under threat from secularists who favour secularism as an ideology in its own right rather than secularity as a mechanism of the state, but I am a strong believer in it.

    We now return you to discusion of St Barbara!

    [ETA incidentally, December 9 is our national secularity day but I'm afraid we're more preoccupied with civil unrest right now]
  • This might be complete rubbish - but I wonder if these are specifically Arab practices. A few times in the Middle East I have noticed Christians engaging with "Muslim" artwork, particularly calligraphy, and Muslims in the places I've been seem fairly open to Christian saints, places and festivals.
  • Not really it is just that different forms of Christianity have been arguing so long in this country that we forget the syncretism that nearly always happens when different faiths live side by side.
  • And we know that in the understanding ? of many people in Europe and Americas the various Gospel stories of the Birth of Christ are echoes in part of stories,prophecies and poems in the Hebrew scriptures. With eyes of faith we are enabled to see some of the Old Testament writings as prophecies foretelling the coming Messiah. Without the eyes of faith we may interpret them differently.


    Just as important for many, many people at Christmas time are the various pre Christian
    cultural traditions - the story of the Christian bishop Nicholas and his generosity to the three young girls who might have been sold into prostitution,has gradually become the story of the generous Santa Claus who rides across the sky in his chariot just as the ancient
    Nordic god did in midwinter. Rudolf,the red nosed reindeer is a firm fixture of the Christmas,


    Yes, we can separate these various strands of the Christmas story,but many people have no wish to do so. It is all gloriously mixed in together and both Christians and non-Christians can celebrate together each in their own way.

    In the same way our good friend Le Roc can honour the goddess Iemanja' with flowers on the Feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
  • And, as I think Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael said, 'God sorts all!'.

    Wise words.
  • LeRoc wrote: »
    Brazilians who adhere to Candomblé or Umbanda religions identify Saint Barbara with Iansã, the orixá of winds and storms. So they celebrated her feast this week. Eparrey!

    @LeRoc I've seen many St. Barbara candles at a botonica here. In the Santeria tradition she is associated with Chango, god of lightning and thunder. Close enough.
  • Probably the most unhelpful post ever, but I'll try and find out the details.

    Fellow parishioners whose parents were from the Middle East told me that Muslims were frequent visitors to an Orthodox monastery in the Levant somewhere. I'm very hazy on the details but I remember it surprising me.
  • I think this happens more often than we realise in the West. A few years ago we visited the (supposed) House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus, which is a Roman Catholic shrine run by a priest and nuns - and a place of pilgrimage for local Muslims, who bring their prayer requests there. We were told by the charming imam at the nearest mosque that he and the priest were good friends, and it seems to be totally accepted that it's a place for both Christians and Muslims.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    I have seen Christians attend Muslim events and vice versa many times. I don't see what's so astounding about it.

    sabine wrote: »
    @LeRoc I've seen many St. Barbara candles at a botonica here.
    Nice!

    sabine wrote: »
    In the Santeria tradition she is associated with Chango, god of lightning and thunder. Close enough.
    Interesting, since Xangô is usually seen as male (in the Nagô tradition, Iansã is one of his three wives). I guess there can be some gender-fluidity involved here.
  • Climacus wrote: »
    Probably the most unhelpful post ever, but I'll try and find out the details.

    Fellow parishioners whose parents were from the Middle East told me that Muslims were frequent visitors to an Orthodox monastery in the Levant somewhere. I'm very hazy on the details but I remember it surprising me.

    It felt like all the other visitors in the Nativity church in Bethlehem when I was there were Muslims. At the time it was tricky for international visitors to get there and it wasn't a special day so most people milling around were local Muslims.

    But maybe that's a special case - there is a big mosque opposite the Nativity church so I think Muslims often wander in. Also Bethlehem has two big Christmas celebrations a year, so I guess the local people see the events around these ancient religious buildings as being jointly owned.
  • LeRoc wrote: »
    I have seen Christians attend Muslim events and vice versa many times. I don't see what's so astounding about it.

    sabine wrote: »
    @LeRoc I've seen many St. Barbara candles at a botonica here.
    Nice!

    sabine wrote: »
    In the Santeria tradition she is associated with Chango, god of lightning and thunder. Close enough.
    Interesting, since Xangô is usually seen as male (in the Nagô tradition, Iansã is one of his three wives). I guess there can be some gender-fluidity involved here.

    I'd have to look this up....I think Chango either has a wife/female companion or is gender fluid in Santeria.
  • Seems like every time I interact with the Arab community here (Christian or Muslim) they are celebrating and eid of something or someone all the time.
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