Can food have a religion?

Natasha Tynes
3 min readDec 24, 2022

During my visit to Jordan last week, I got to eat burbara, a dessert typically made by Christians from the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan) right before Christmas.

The dish was made by my cousin, who invited family members to come to enjoy the dessert and spend quality time together during the holidays.
This, of course, got me thinking about food and religion.

Can food have faith?

The answer is yes, especially if you live in the Levant. In that part of the world, Christians celebrate St. Barbara with this sweet wheat berry dessert.

Who is St. Barbara?

Saint Barbara or Barbāra, venerated as a saint by many Christian denominations, is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (A group of saints venerated together by Roman Catholic Christians because their intercession is believed to be particularly effective against diseases).

Believed to have lived in present-day turkey during the 3rd century, Saint Barbara is one of the most highly venerated saints in the Catholic Church. She is typically invoked to protect against fire, lightning, storms, and sudden death. Barbara has also been associated with warriors since the Middle Ages and is often depicted holding a tower or chalice in her hands.
According to legend, Saint Barbara was martyred for her faith by her father, Dioscorus.

When she refused to recant her beliefs in Christianity, he had her beaten and tortured before finally beheading her with a sword.

This act of martyrdom is believed to have occurred on December 4th in the year 306 A.D., making it one of the earliest Christian martyrdoms.
When St. Barbara was martyred, her father tried to burn her body, but it would not. Instead, he found a handful of wheat berries among the ashes that had grown from her remains.

The burbara dish

This miracle has inspired Christian communities in the region to make burbara in her honor every December 4th.

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Natasha Tynes

Writer. Journalist. Words in @washingtonpost , @ElleUK , @esquire . I write about: ✍🏼 Writing 📲 Creator economy 🌍 Mideast