New Year’s Eve and the 1st day of the year #syrianchristmas

Where I come from, this is how things used to be done!

Celebration of new year’s eve in my family and in most Armenian families who used to live in Aleppo City…

I would like to stop and reflect why I am choosing the wording, we used to…

War changed many family habits specially Christmas ones and that’s for both for the ones  who decided to start a life outside Syria or with people who decided to stay in .

Probably, the main reason for me to actually put those traditions into words is because I want and I wish to hang on some kind of memory and tradition that I belong to.

The ones which shaped me, specifically  when you’re abroad and you get all those questions for this kind of discussion, and your certainly phrase your reply with; where I come from this is how things used to be done!

 

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Tradition-customs

We first celebrate with the family then after midnight we are out with friends.

What happens is that new year’s eve starts with a big colorful dinner table, surrounded with family members and sometimes family friends are invited. The night is about talking, laughing, sharing food, most of the time reflecting on previous year lessons learned and looking forward for the new one sharing wishes and hopes, each one of us Have a saying around the table loudly .

When the clock ticks 12.00 midnight and you’re about to enter a new year, we turn off all the lights at the house and put candles on the table to help lighten the dining room. We pray loudly all together, then we start wishing every one a happy new year. We leave our seats and normally start with the oldest on the table exchanging hugs ,kisses and wishes.

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Later on, you may find most of the youth getting ready to go out. Your date or friends will pick you up and you end up partying with a massive crowd somewhere in the city of Aleppo, where a huge party is organized.

I called one of my family’s close friends and asked him a specific Diaspora Armenian new year tradition and he shared his point of view reminding me that youth leaving the family on new years eve after 12 is something that’s been in Aleppo in the last 25 -30 years.

I recall he had a special one which he had in his own family.

Mr. Karamanoukian  proudly still manages to do it every year even though the rest of his family members stopped it , who shared it warmly even when we used to invite him to spend new year’s with us he had to do his own tradition around our family table.

Before we start the dinner, he would have a red wine glass and put a gold coin in it , then the glass will tour around the table and every guest will drink a sip. (The Red wine refers to the  blood of Christ  and the  gold is used as its the world most respectful metal, mixing them together and sipping will be a prosperous  and successful year  ahead).

Food that must be on the table  and shared with the invites .

We don’t have a specific table serving on new year’s eve. Every family has its own tradition, but what is common is to have a Turkey stuffed with Rice and different nuts.

Grape vine stuffed with minced meat and rice we call it yabrak  or Sarma in Armenian

Kubbe must be on the table and a couple of salads or mezzes, sndwanat , suburak , taboule , yalanji.

Please find the pictures of the above list of dishes. Taken by my sister through the years

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First day of the Year 

New year’s eve is a tough drinking Eve, dancing and a long night of celebration that you end up mixing way too many drinks and top it up on champagne, welcoming the new year.

If you’re partying outside most probably you’re returning  home  early hours of the next day  drunk and you don’t want to remember what you did the night before. All you need is your pillow .

In our case as Armenian Syrians we wake up half sober with one eye almost closed with a hangover on a dining table either at our grandmother’s or in your own house lunch time.

Your mother or grandmother will prepare a typical first day dish of the year,

which is called kubbe labaniye  in Arabic كبة لبنية  

in Armenian madzounov kofta – Մատզոնով քոֆդա

and the English translation is meatballs yogurt soup.

The first day of the year people all over the world tag each other with new year pictures. We tag each other with labaniye dishes pictures .

Actually the dish is so sacred and the yogurt will balance your fucked up stomach and wakes you up slowly from the hang over .

The main reason we eat this specific dish on the first day of the year is because it’s a white dish, and we believe the year will be white /peaceful and the coming days will give us nothing but inner peace, “a myth that’s been carried for generations”but that’s how it is. You have to start your year with a WHITE DISH .

It’s been almost 4 years I am married with a Dane who really appreciates this dish when my mom makes it. The first day of 2016 I prepared  the meatballs way in advance and next morning I did my best to make it as tasty as my mom’s.

For a Dane who actually loves having a take away such as a Pizza for a hangover meal, his .  first reaction is that he really appreciate it by saying honey that is sooo sweet of you , your keeping the tradition , and it takes efforts, but its too heavy as a hangover dish and your mom’s is still better.

Maybe our stomach has been used to it for years, but to be honest Its one of the traditions I really like. I think it’s a  decent way of approaching a new year with positivity and HOPE, but the best part out of it for me is finishing two plates and going back to sleep “afternoon siesta”.

And this is how our year starts; with sleeping and a heavy yet delicious dish .

Happy new year 

 

 

PLEASE NOTE its not necessary to eat this dish, it’s important to have a white dish , but this one is the most common dish shared .

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Kubbe labaniye . Recipe.     As I am more of a  visual person . I found those videos very useful by clicking on part 1.2.3. . Enjoy the lady behind them . Mariette a talented lady with clear voice and useful videos .  An Armenian Soul .  with some notes on how my mom would do it is below each video .  

  1. part one    

My mom never uses onions in the meatballs. .

  1. part two

While the water is boiling for kufta , my mom adds Maggie cubes  instead of seasoning the water with salt . so that the meatballs will end up more tasty …..

  1. part three 

In my family we never use the corn , all we do is yogurt and one egg Wisk it , then slowly add water of the cooked meatballs as she is doing it in the video . ..

 

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3rd of Dec. Christmas tree up

3rd of December is a special day back in Syria and for me it’s extra special as it’s my birthday!

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I was born on Saint Barbara’s day. My doctor was out partying before he delivered me, and suggested my name to be Barbara, but it ended up Angelique; taking after my grandmother’s name and i love it. Since then every year it’s our family tradition to have the Christmas  tree up on that day and the house is covered with xmas decoration all over. I don’t recall any year that passed without the smell of my mom’s tasty ( Slika  – in Arabic is سليقة    and in Armenian  ( hadig –  հատիկ )

the pure translation to English  based on recipes online is Burbara -Middle Eastern Wheat Berry Porridge, all over the house.

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Tradition / history

Many Syrian children look forward to Eid al-Barbara (Saint Barbara’s Day), celebrated in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Turkey) by wearing costumes and eating traditional food on that evening .

On Saint Barbara’s Day, children in several Syrian towns go out in costumes and disguises and knock on their relatives and neighbors’ doors to wish them well and – more importantly – collect sweets.

Syrian hotels and restaurants also put on special fancy dress parties for the occasion.

Historically story tellers shared different version of St Barbara’s story but the most common one is the following:

Saint Barbara was persecuted in the 3rd century because she believed in Jesus. The general belief among Middle Eastern Christians is that Saint Barbara disguised herself in many different characters to escape the Romans who were persecuting her.  While fleeing from the Romans, Barbara supposedly also ran through a freshly planted wheat field, which grew instantly behind her to magically cover her path. This miracle is recreated symbolically today by planting wheat seeds (or chick peas, barley grains, beans, lentils) in little pots. The seeds germinate and grow quickly to around 6 inches in time for Christmas. Then the shoots are used to decorate the nativity scene usually placed below the Christmas tree.

Some correct the story, that she was running away from her father and beside the miracle of the wheat fields , you may find many Religious icons that had been drawn of her holding Wheat spike. Therefore we eat wheat on that day.

On the other hand, Planting seeds on that day by the kids is a Lebanese custom, which we never had in Syria.

I would like to quote a friend of mine ,  سليقة – slika  is a very easy desert to make but it takes time , you need to boil the wheat for many long hours therefore it’s called slika …

Please note . the verb out of the word  Slika means boiling in Arabic .

You can find some family pictures of a Dear friend of mine from this year 2017 , she moved to Qatar but kept the tradition within the school and home with her kids .

And throw back to my old pictures below you can find me partying in the old days of Aleppo i.e. 2009. One of the best parties that annually used to be organized on Barbara Night By the entrepreneur Magdy Sh.

 

How to make Barbara – slika سليقة – Sniye- Hadig հատիկ

You may find the two different recpies by clicking below.

https://www.askchefdennis.com/burbara-middle-eastern-wheat-berry-porridge-with-dish-away/

https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/burbarrah-my-favorite-porridge-on-earth/

My mom’s Way .

  1. the night before you place wheat with water and keep them overnight In the water .
  2. next morning Change the water , and start heating/and the coking process begin .
  3. When it starts boiling you get some white crème on the top . you take them out with a spoon while its boiling .

you leave the pot a little open . and on very law heat . you should make sure you cooked it well ( you can add hot water each time you feel it’s getting  less . …..until the wheat is well cooked .  be patient this is a long process .

  1. As it’s a dish that can stay for a week in the fridge . my mom’s secret is the following
  2. Take portions that you need to serve and mix it with sugar , cinnamon , grounded anise seeds and fennel grounded . ( she doesn’t buy grounded anise and fennel ready from the market  . she  buys  the seeds grill  them a little in the pan ….. then ground them and use it as spice for the mixture )
  3. Placing it in bowls for serving warm . after flavoring ,decorate each serving with toppings . chopped Almonds, pistachio , nuts and golden raisin … based on your wish or the guests wish .

 

This Sweet porridge is not dedicated specially for this day only . the same porridge will be served when a new born baby gets his first teeth . the family will gather for an afternoon sweets and this porridge will be served and shared  happily .

 

#syrianchristmas

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A friend of mine shared her wish to start a hashtag #syrianchristmas  gathering food recipes and sharing traditions/customs  which we used to follow as Syrians back home.

Today we have spread all over the world and maybe a hashtag can gather some nice colorful memories online for curious souls  to know more about Syria and the Syrian ways of life.
I am excited to write about my part, as Christmas is one of my favorite seasons. I love December. I was born in December and the spirit of Joy spices my soul every year.

Christmas is a glorious season of the year. I love to share the simple joys of it and one of them is giving gifts. Lights and kindness are floating all over.

Suddenly everyone remembers to be kind, which is remarkable……
Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done but in the act of keeping traditions as well.
When you’re abroad and you get those kind of questions;
• How about your Christmas traditions back in your own country?
• It’s a Christian tradition why do you celebrate it , in the M.east? It’s a Muslim country.
• Why is your Christmas “as an Armenians” on the 6th and not 24th of December like the rest of the world?
•How do you celebrate? What do you eat?

In my blog I will try my best to be 100% true and based on facts , asking older generation to confirm my points and referring to my family and friends of family who kept the traditions for years ,  therefore I will not stereotype  Christians in Syria I will write about the  part  I come from, as an Armenian from Syria .
Please feel free to use your own versions and please share as much memories and recipes you know , remember and you still apply in your new homes . ……………….

In Syria you have a majority of Sunni Muslims with little group partitions ( Kurds, Druzes , Yazidis , ,Turkman , Ismailli , Alawi , Sunni Circassiansthen )
On the other hand, you may find  Christian minority groups Arabic-speaking Christians (Greek-Orthodox, Greek-Catholics, Maronites and a part of Syrian Catholics)
Assyrians (Catholics) and Syriacs (Orthodox) , Armenians ( Catholics and Orthodox) and Jews.

Syrian civil society is a remarkable patchwork. Therefore it’s important to understand and dig into the details in order to be able to comprehend the #SyrianChristmas
But then again I ask myself is Christmas more religious based ceremony or Christmas is a cultural event , but where do I come from church is very involved in the traditions . therefore I would call it  religion based Event .

I decided to put up a blog explaining the journey starting from 3rd of December. …….Read more
Then I will take you to a trip on 31st of December and 1st of January. ….. …….Read more  And the last article will be about 5th January Armenian christmas……… ….. …….Read more  
I will leave 24th Christmas eve for other friends who are able to express it in their own versions and community habits..  .
Recipes of traditional Dishes are from various sources online which will be mentioned and credited with modification from my Mom. based on how she does it. Every talent has its own secret.
Remember every community has habits and recipes but every house hold has its own Tradition as well, so welcome to mine

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