St Barbara’s Day Dec. 4th- Cherry Blossoms for Good Fortune
On December 4th, some Germans celebrate St. Barbara by placing a branch with buds in water. But what is St.Barbara’s Branch? And who is St Barbara?
Who is St. Barbara?
St Barbara was the daughter of a king in Turkey. She became a martyr when she was locked in a tower by her father, then tortured and killed for her faith in Christianity. During her incarceration she kept a cherry branch alive by sharing her drinking water with it. She was consoled by the blossoms that appeared just before her execution.
Interestingly, St Barbara is the patron saint of armourers, artillerymen, military engineers, miners and others who work with explosives. (Sadly, she was removed from the General Roman Calender after Vatican II… but that doesn’t stop people from following the traditions).
Celebrating St Barbara’s Day
Once upon a time, unmarried women would put a Cherry Branch in a vase of water, and if it bloomed by Christmas, then they believed that they would be married in the next year.
(I’m sure more than a few put it close to the stove for a little extra insurance of blossoms!)
Today, on December 4th, St Barbara’s Day, people still put a cherry branch (or another flowering branch) is put in a vase with water. It usually blooms by December 25th, if the blooms appear right on December 25th it brings good fortune for the year.
The blossoms are a nice touch of springtime in the darkest days of Winter.
How to “Force” Branches to Bloom for St Barbara’s Day
You can make buds bloom before their time by “forcing” them… basically, you confuse the branch into thinking it’s spring.
On a mild day, pick branches that have swollen buds and cut stems. In some areas you may have to go to a nursery or florist to get branches. Crush the ends of the branches, and place them in a tub of cool, not icy, water for several hours. Arrange the branches in a large vase of water. For a few days, leave the branches in a cool area. As the buds begin to swell, you can bring the branches into a warm room, but not in direct sunlight, and not on the heater! Spritz with lukewarm water from time to time, and when the blooms appear, place the branches in a sunny window. Change the water every two days. Thin branches “force” more quickly than thick ones; the blooms should appear in one to five weeks.
Good Luck for the Year
If your branches bloom… you will have good luck! And the blooming branches make a beautiful decoration.