Barbara and her father Disocorus, a wealthy man lived in Heliopolis, Phonecia or modern-day Baalbek, Lebanon. Her great beauty made her father nervous, so he built a tower to conceal her from the general public. Barbara was curious about God and pursued her interest with a merchant, who later converted and baptized her.
It is said that when St. Barbara’s pagan father found out that she was Christian, he struck her with a sword and she ran away from him. While hiding in the hills, in wheat fields which grew instantly, covering her path. She disguised herself in many different costumes to escape her father and the Romans who were persecuting her. She was caught finally, tortured and then beheaded by her own father, Disocorus who was then taken by a bolt of lightning for executing Barbara.
Children in mask and costume run and hide in neighborhoods screaming, “Hesuhlee ya Barbara ”imploring Barbara to run away. They go door-to-door singing and dancing fo neighbors who reward them with sweet treats. In the church we here the song Idissi Burbara.
Slee’a, a wheat kernel dessert is prepared flavored with orange blossom or rose water, cinnamon, anise, fennel, nutmeg and served with pomegranate seeds, almonds, pistachios, golden raisins, walnuts, pinenuts, and sweetened with either sugar or honey. The wheat symbolizes the wheat fields that hid Barbara from her captors. Atayef, a small pancake stuffed with walnuts, clotted cream or cheese filling is also a popular treat.
As far as I am aware, only the US, the UK, and Ireland celebrate it. And the Irish do it differently; they go more by the origins of the tradition, the Celtic New Year. There has been a push by shop owners in Europe to celebrate it, simply because they wanted to sell stuff on the back of it, but it has more or less died out; the French campaign against celebration of Halloween formally dissolved about 10 years ago after declaring victory.