Saturday, December 4, 2010


Today is the feast day of Saint Barbara, a early Christian martyr and saint who is the patron of mathematicians and those who work with explosives. Her commemoration warrants a post on this blog because in the German-speaking world, there are various plant-related customs tied to Barbaratag or "Barbara Day". Traditionally, Barbarazweige or "Barbara twigs" are cut on this day and brought inside to be placed in a vase. These are normally small branches of cherries (Prunus sp.), apples (Malus domestica), or even forsythia (Forsythia sp.), though at least where I am from branches of the sweet cherry (Prunus avium) are most common and most traditional. The idea behind this is that in the warmth of the house, the branches will start flowering by Christmas.

Blossoms of an ornamental cherry (Prunus cv.)

Another, less wide-spread tradition associated with St. Barbara's feast day is Barbaraweizen or "Barbara wheat", for which wheat grains are placed on a plate and kept moist, the intent being that they germinate and grow into a bush of grassy greenery by Christmas eve. If you want to read more about St. Barbara and the Barbarazweige, you can visit last year's post which is a bit more extensive than this one.


  1. A patron saint of mathmaticians and those who work with explosives? What a curious combination. I think Alaskans have patron saints of snowstorms, lost boat paddles, and hunting. Or maybe not....

    Christine in Alaska

  2. Very interesting, a patron for mathematicians and explosives workers. Very nice tradition to have cherry blooms this time of the year


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