A “Barbara Branch” 2014

On the 4th of December every year – St. Barbara’s Day – I cut the branch of a spring flowering shrub to bring indoors, and then wait for it to open by Christmas. In my case this is usually Forsythia or Hazel, but cherry blossom or apple blossom also works, as does plum and apparently elderflower (!), which I have never actually seen. Time then to try it out, but I can only imagine some leaves will unfurl.



(It was begging for some Christmas decorations and since I don’t have a Christmas tree this is a perfect substitute!)


It is called a “Barbarazweig” in German, and it is supposedly good luck if it opens by Christmas Eve. The legend of Saint Barbara is that she caught her robe on a branch while being led into prison. She placed the broken branch in water and it flowered on the day she was sentenced to death for her faith.



(Can you see the yellow flowers already trying to open? They have been showing for several days outdoors, so the whole branch may open sooner than expected… is that lucky too?!)


It is said the branch should have had a frost on it, but I’m not sure this is really necessary. Luke-warm water and a not-too-warm room are best for the first two weeks, then it can be moved to a warmer spot. I must remember to change the water every two or three days.



The only disadvantage of Hazel is the pollen when the catkins open, so one to avoid if you suffer from hayfever. 😉


I will of course let you know if any of my branches flower before Christmas!

Do you ever cut a Barbarazweig?

48 thoughts on “A “Barbara Branch” 2014

  1. Last year in december a flowering cherry blossom branch from the garden was given to me. It has had much more expression than a fir. Thank you for reminding me to take a branch into the house. 🙂

  2. I haven’t tried this but will do so with some Forsythia. We do not put a tree up inside the house, I usually decorate some kind of branches brought into the house instead. Do you have a tree near Christmas?

    • We don’t have a tree at all. Occasionally I buy a small one in a pot for outside the front door, but after watching the last one die because the ground was too frozen to plant it out after Christmas I decided not to do that again for a while! I like decorating branches instead too.

  3. No, I haven’t! I wish I had seen this entry this morning, because I would have cut something this morning! Drat! I suppose, doing it tomorrow, December 5th, would be too late. I think it is a LOVELY idea!

    • Wouldn’t that be wonderful – elderflowers at Christmas! No, I am a realist. I think i can only hope for some greenery at most. But will keep you posted!

    • I think it must be German, as i have not heard of any other cultures doing this. It has become a tradition for me, marked on the calendar every year so I don’t forget!

    • It is done in spring here too, but I think things open more rapidly then. I suppose it must be a German tradition, and I have done it regularly over the past few years.

  4. You have prompted me to have a look to see what I can pick Cathy maybe with a vase on Monday in mind 🙂 Is this a tradition that you have got into since living in Germany?

    • I started doing it a few years ago and it has become a tradition for me now. There are so many traditions and sayings connected with nature here, which is something I love about Bavaria! Hope you find something appropriate for a vase too. 🙂

  5. I usually cut branches to open in water in winter but I have never done it as early as this before. But why not? What a lovely idea to do it for Xmas. Flowering currant would probably work too. In Spring I like to watch Horse Chestnut unfurling inside, I wonder if it is too early for this.
    I love your new header.

    • Thanks Chloris. I bet flowering currant would be lovely, but mine does have a very intense musty smell when it opens. I like the idea of watching horsechestnut unfurl.

    • I would love one, but until recent years was always away over Christmas. I also remember how depressing it is taking it down after Christmas, so I am spared that! LOL!

    • I think it must be specific to Germany. I also often cut a branch in spring too, but in December there’s the added interest of whether it will open at all or not!

  6. Pingback: In a Vase on Monday: a Candle for the Solstice | Words and Herbs

  7. Pingback: 4th December 2015: A Barbara Branch | Words and Herbs

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