Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bissiye.... Halloween?

OK, here's a super-bastardized concept!.... Another mish-mash whereby Lebanese adopt globalization while keeping the local twist. Halloween is naturally associated with costumes and masquerades... And it falls on October 31st. St. Barbara, a local tradition in the land, is also associated with the same rituals (Children dressing up and going trick and treating) while singing "bissiye Berbara, wel amh bil mghara," (Barbara the cat, and the wheat is in the cave)... According to legend, the reason she is associated with disguise is that when the emperor was torturing her by dragging her behind a chariot, the people could see her face changing into that of animals. The rest of the story goes that children, when not receiving a generous tip from the lady of the house would chant: "Arguileh faouk arguile, set el beit bakhile" (Hubbly bubbly upon hubbly bubbly, the lady of the house is stingy).
Which brings us to the Yammine ad, a place specialized in costume rental!... It reads "Yammine Halloween", but also "The "berbara" (Celebration of St. Barbara) starts with us"!... As if one festivity is equal to the other. Which is not the case.


Angie Nader said...

i dont know if i'd want to rent a would be better just to buy.
there is a few differences between halloween in Lebanon and in the states....
my son mostly likes that he leaves with his counsins, and they get to split money for a evening of singing the brbara song...haha

Tarek Chemaly said...

Thanks for sharing this!!! TJC

Maya said...

Thank you for talking about this! It has always perplexed me how Lebanese confuse Halloween and Berbara. As a child I never celebrated Halloween, only Berbara. But when I came to Leb I noticed a major confusion between the two: a lot now call berbara (on the 4th of Decemer) "Halloween". And they celebrate both. Just another addition to the identity crises of Lebanon.

lukewarm said...

You've got the song wrong! It's "Heshli berbara wil 2ameh bil 7ara, ya m3alimti hizzi el kis, allah yib3atlik 3aris" and a last phrase i don't remember.

Hehe although I'm sure that there are different versions in different regions but when we wanted to be cheecky when we left we'd say:

"blata 3a blata sa7ibt el beit dirrata" :)

Also I was told that it was a story about a princess who converted to christianity so her dad a king locked her up in a prison. She then was rescued by her "comrades" and she painted her face black with coal so she wouldnt be noticed and escape the prison. Upon escaping the gaurds follow them and burn a field they are hiding in and they get fried to a crisp.

The princess's name was berbara. Well that's the story I know anyway

Patrick Chemali said...

I think Wikipedia has some interesting info on this