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December 6, 2019

Nikolobarbara: The Winter Celebration of St. Barbara, St. Savvas and St. Nicholas

In Greece, from December 4-6, 'Nikolobarbara' includes the feast days of St. Barbara, St. Savvas, and St. Nicholas. These days are considered to herald the onset of truly wintry cold weather, therefore homes are prepared for winter beforehand, such as preparing wood for the fire place. It is said also that the weather of these days will be the same weather as Christmas. Sayings that can be heard in various parts of Greece at this time are:

"Απ' τα Νικολοβάρβαρα αρχίζει κι ο χειμώνας."
"From Nikolobarbara begins the winter."

"Τα Νικολοβάρβαρα ή βρέχει ή χιονίζει."
"At Nikolobarbara it rains or snows."

"Άε Βαρβάρα φύσα, Άε Σάββα τούφ’σον, Άε Νικόλα χιόντσον"
St. Barbara it is windy, St. Savva it rains, St. Nicholas is snows."

"Αγιά Βαρβάρα γέννησε και άη Σάββα το δέχτη
Κι’άης Νικόλας έτρεξε και πάει να το βαφτίση."
"Saint Barbara gave it birth and Saint Savva received it,
And Saint Nicholas ran to have it baptized." (i.e. the snow)

And in Kerkyra they say:

"Νικολίτσι, Βαρβαρίτσι, Σάββα τ'ήθελες στη μέση;"
"Nicholas, Barbara, Savva why did you want to be in the middle?"

Saint Savvas is known as a protector and healer. On this day, some areas make fava in his memory.

"Του Άη-Σάββα, τρώνε φάβα!"
"On St Savva, eat fava!"

Nikolobarbara therefore is the traditional almanac of the Greek people by using the Church calendar.

In modern Greek history, Saint Barbara and Saint Nicholas are connected to the Greek Army, since these are correspondingly the celebration dates of the Greek Artillery and the Navy. Meanwhile, the dates of 4th, 5th and 6th December create a “triangle”, which corresponds to the celebrations of Saint Barbara, Saint Savvas and Saint Nicholas. This triangle was named “Nikolobarbara” by the people. In the Peloponnese, many people associate this “triangle” with death, because of the bad weather conditions that usually prevail these particular days. In fact, many people say that “Saint Barbara strengthens (the cold), Saint Savvas enshrouds (with cold), and Saint Nicholas buries.”

Other sayings are:

"Άι Βαρβάρα βαρβαρών, Άι Σάββας σαβανών, κι Άι Νικόλας παραχών"

"Άε-Βαρβάρα φύσα – Άε-Σάββα χιόντσον – Άε-Νικόλα άνοιξον (ή σκέπασον)"

"Άε Βαρβάρα χιόνιξον και Άε Σάββαν πούρξον, τ’ Άε Νικόλα την βραδύν τρανόν φουρτούναν ποίσον"