On Saint Barbara’s day or Eid-il-Berbara, Lebanese children disguised in costumes roam the streets, knocking on the doors, collecting candies and treats and singing Heyshleh Barbara. A yearly celebration very similar to Halloween, but celebrated on the 3rd of December.
The Lebanese story says that Saint Barbara escaped her pagan father who refused to let her convert to Christianity. She disguised herself in different costumes (thus the tradition of dressing up and wearing masks) to hide from her father who was persecuting her.
I grew up in a neighborhood where they gave coins on Saint Barbara’s day instead of sweets. Can you imagine what a happy child I was on that day!
My dad used to cook “awwamaat” (or ouwaymet) as a traditional food for the occasion. A true delish!
Awwamaat are small balls of dough, the size of a walnut, deep-fried to a golden browned crisp and then soaked in sugar syrup.
I fondly remember my dad in the kitchen frying these doughnuts, while I’m waiting for him to finish to gobble it all up. There’s no way to eat just one!
Other sweets for the occasion include Atayef, they’re like pancakes stuffed with walnut and a rich cream called Ashta, and sweetened boiled barley.
Awwamaat are also part of the traditional celebration of Ghtas, Christ’s baptismal night, but were mostly famous at our house on Barbara’s feast. The perfect treat to enjoy on that day!
And this is how my dad made them:
Middle Eastern Awwamaat on Saint Barbara’s Day
- 3 cups flour
- ¼ tsp dry yeast
- 2 ½ cups water, lukewarm
- 1 tsp sugar
- Oil for deep frying
- 2 ½ cup of white sugar
- 1½ cup water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2tsp rose water
1.To make the syrup, dissolve sugar in water, add the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Remove the foam on the top. Simmer for 10mn while gently stirring and until it becomes thick. Add rose water and set aside to cold.
2.To make the dough, mix flour and sugar in a large bowl. Dissolve yeast in warm water and slowly add it until dough forms. Knead well. Cover the dough with a wet cloth and leave to rise 1 to 2 hours.
3.Heat oil and drop mixture using a wet teaspoon or form ball shape with hands and drop in oil. Remove from oil when golden brown and drain on absorbent paper. Dip with syrup when still warm. Serve hot or cold.