"Barbarazweige" (Barbara-branches) are branches of fruit trees, which according to an old custom are cut on 4 December, the liturgical memorial day of St. Barbara in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Church. They are placed in a vase indoors. Depending on the area and customs cherry, apple, birch, hazelnut, horse chestnut, plum, elderberry, hawthorn or forsythia branches are used. They should bloom until Christmas Eve and decorate the apartment for Christmas. The warm indoor environment appears to the branches as spring.


The custom goes back to a tradition of the Saint Barbara, a branch broke and stuck on her robe on the way to the prison. She put the broken branch into a jar of water, and it bloomed on the very day she suffered martyrdom.


According to regional folklore, the blossoming of the Barbarian branches brings good luck in the coming year. It is sometimes the custom that the young girls assign the name of an admirer to each branch. The branch that flowers first should point to the future groom. Written evidence of the Barbara-branches is known since the 13th century.


Not only as a religious symbol but as a decoration indoors during the wintertime branches are a long-lasting alternative with tradition to expensive cut flowers from foreign countries.


Painted by Jerg Ratgeb in 1510, Church in Schwaigern, picture from: (CC)
Painted by Jerg Ratgeb in 1510, Church in Schwaigern, picture from: (CC)