Everyone has heard the children's tale about the good and beautiful princess who gets locked in a tower, but did you know that princess was really St. Barbara? She became a Christian, against her father's wishes, so he locked her there as a punishment in the hope that she would change her mind. While he was away, he ordered workmen to put two small windows in the tower. Barbara had instructed them to make three, in honor of the Holy Trinity, an action that further infuriated her already angry father and sadly, resulted in her martyrdom.
Legend says that she kept some branches from a cherry tree in a glass in her tower cell, and when she died, they began to flower. It is in honor of this event that the custom arose for young, unmarried girls to collect twigs and branches on St. Barbara's feast day for forcing indoors. It is said that if they happen to bloom by, or on, Christmas Day the young lady will surely be married during the coming year. At the very least, good luck and a beautiful Christmas centerpiece are in store for those who keep this custom!
Forcing Cherry Branches
Any branches from your yard can be forced into bloom successfully, but shrubs or trees like apple, cherry, pear, dogwood, forsythia, and lilac are most popular. Be sure that the branches are at least 8-12 inches in length or longer, and are cut on an angle for better water absorption. Once you bring them inside, place them in a tall jar or vase of warm water. You may opt to add a drop or two of peroxide, or household bleach to the water to keep bacteria at bay. Cover your branches with a large plastic bag (tall kitchen garbage bags work well) to hold in the humidity and soften the flower and leaf bracts so that they bloom more readily. After 48 hours you may remove the bag and place your bouquet in a sunny location and await the display.
For the ByziKids:
St. Barbara's Tower Vase
Would you like to make a decorative tower-vase to display your branches?
Take a large, round oatmeal box and peel off the glossy coating, leaving just the plain cardboard behind. This is the perfect canvas upon which to draw the stones of St. Barbara's Tower! Use either crayons or markers, or even glue some paper bricks cut from some construction paper onto your tower. Just remember to make THREE windows, one for each person in the Holy Trinity, just like the workmen did at St. Barbara's instruction. Before you decorate your tower, do be sure that your glass jar fits neatly inside so it can hold the water for your branches. Hint: A quart-size canning jar fits well.
St. Barbara's Breakfast
Children in the Middle East celebrate on the eve of St. Barbara’s feast by dressing up in costumes and going house to house, singing and receiving treats...much like we Americans do on Halloween.
This is to remember the legend which says that Barbara dressed in disguise while fleeing from her persecutors. She was also said to have run through a freshly-planted field of wheat which miraculously grew up behind her as she ran, concealing her path. This is why it is also customary to eat wheat on her feast, like the delicious and comforting breakfast we are about to make! People all over the world customarily make this breakfast on St. Barbara Day with ingredients like dried wheat berries, dried fruits, and nuts because it is believed that the saint was given foods such as these to eat in her tower. Cherries are on the menu as well, commemorating the cherry branch she kept in her prison tower which blossomed at her entry into eternal life.
Get the easy and delicious crockpot recipe HERE