Agia Varvara’s treat: Varvara porridge. Nutty, spiced, sweet, shared for health, warmth, and strength. A cherished tradition.

Close-up of bowls with ‘Varvara’ is a kind of porridge

Varvara is a kind of porridge that the faithful prepare on the eve of the celebration of Agia (Saint) Varvara, distributing it to parishioners to support their health. It is a creamy sweet made with wheat, tahini and various dried nuts. If you have the patience and the skill to make it, you will see that all other kinds of energy snacks pale before it. It sweetens your disposition, satisfies your hunger, provides warmth and gives you strength.

Agia Varvara is considered the protector of children from bad childhood diseases. The celebration was established in order to distribute this sweet, which was given the name “Varvara”.

This custom is said to have existed from the time when the satanic mind of Agia Varvara’s father, Dioskouros, set out to exterminate Christians by poisoning their bread. His daughter, however, learned of his secret plan and alerted Christians to avoid eating bread and, instead, to eat whatever nuts they had at their homes. Thus, on the eve of the celebration, the 3rd of December, it became a custom for housewives to prepare Varvara, using wheat and various dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, almonds, pomegranate seeds and raisins) along, typically with diced apple and generous amounts of spice, usually cinnamon. At dawn on the day of the celebration, they would send to neighbors, relatives and friends a plate of Varvara and they would receive likewise. They considered varvara to have a number of beneficial properties (such as the treatment of smallpox) and credited Agia Varvara with giving bountiful strength.

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