What is the connection between Barbaroba festival and Lobiani?
17 December, 2014
What is the connection between Barbaroba festival and Lobiani?
On the 17th of December, the day dedicated to Saint Barbara, everyone bakes lobiani. Where did this tradition come from, one might ask?
Christian cult of Barbara emerged and was spread mainly among Eastern Christians. In Catholic countries of Europe, she was considered to be a guardian against fires and hurricanes.
Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio - St. Barbara

She was also thought to be a patroness of craftsmen. Religious Georgians considered her to be the patron saint of women, livestock and
fertility in general. In Georgia the Barbaroba festival carries traces of Paganism as well: Georgians used to worship a solar deity known as Barbale (or Barboli/Barblashi, depending on the region). This deity occupied an important spot in the Georgian pantheon, along with its mother Aisi-Barbale. To this day, the tradition of baking round patty-cakes symbolizing the sun remains. Sometimes they are even daubed with egg yolks to be golden-yellow in color.
Baking Lobiani

When the country converted to Christianity, cults of Saint Barbara and the deity Barbale merged due to phonetic similarities. As a result, Barbaroba was celebrated while upholding some rules initially born of venerating Barbale. But since worship of the Christian saint implied fasting, eggs and cheese were no longer acceptable for consumption. Thus, sun-shaped patty-cakes were to be baked with a new filling, and lobio (beans) quickly filled the much-needed gap.

Before the introduction of lobio, its role was most likely filled by lentils and cicer. This is how Barbaroba lobiani is made: boiled lobio is placed under running water to get rid of any impurities and then mashed, with pepper and salt added in the process. Afterwards it is wrapped up in yeasted dough and baked like ordinary khachapuri.

Traditionally, lobio is baked in a tone (tandoor-like oven), but everyday households can freely use frying pans and electric ovens. When making ferial lobiani, pig fat can be used or ham may be mixed in with the mashed beans. In fasting variation of the dish, any ingredients of animal origin are replaced with their vegetable-derived substitute.
Modern Georgia has many variations of lobio to offer. Some housewives add greens and spices to the filling, and use various kinds of dough instead of traditional yeasted. Lobiani can differ in shape as well.
Boat-shaped Adjarian style lobiani

This how lobiani became the Barbaroba festival’s main dish. However, many members of Georgian clergy claim that baking lobiani on the day of the festival is ungainly. According to them, lobiani can always be made and consumed, but it has nothing to do with the festival.

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