Thinking back to the time when I was little Girl, I remember my mum cutting of branches of my grandma’s cherry tree and placing them into a vase, around Christmas we would have blooming cherry blossoms in the living room. Back then it was one of those little wonders that make children believe about anything your mom would tell you, since after all she made the cherries bloom in December!
My mom used to tell me it was because it is Barbara day and that was that. Over the years, and with Christmas getting more and more stressful and now having 3 kids instead of just one, my mom kind of forgot about this custom and it got lost in our home.
Nevertheless, it’s still a tradition in a few German households and a very sweet one at that.
The legend behind it goes like this:
Barbara, the daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscorus, was carefully guarded by her father who kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world. Having secretly become a Christian, she rejected an offer of marriage that she received through him. Before going on a journey, he commanded that a private bath-house be erected for her use near her dwelling, and during his absence, Barbara had three windows put in it, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, instead of the two originally intended. When her father returned, she acknowledged herself to be a Christian; upon this he drew his sword to kill her, but her prayers created an opening in the tower wall and she was miraculously transported to a mountain gorge, where two shepherds watched their flocks. Dioscorus, in pursuit of his daughter, was rebuffed by the first shepherd, but the second betrayed her and was turned to stone and his flock changed to locusts. Dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her cruelly tortured, Barbara held true to her faith. During the night, the dark prison was bathed in light and new miracles occurred. Every morning her wounds were healed. Torches that were to be used to burn her went out as soon as they came near her. Finally, she was condemned to death by beheading. Her father himself carried out the death-sentence.
Depressed and alone in her cell, Barbara found a dried-up cherry tree branch, which she moistened daily with a few drops from her drinking water. She was greatly consoled by the beautiful cherry blossoms that appeared just days before her impending execution.
However, as punishment for this, he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body was consumed by flame. Barbara was buried by a Christian, Valentinus, and her tomb became the site of miracles.
To remember her, Germans, especially in catholic areas cut of branches of cherry trees, on Dec 4th and place them in vases with water in the warm house. If it blossoms by the time Christmas comes around, it’s a sign of good luck for the coming year.