A German Christmas Tradition – Barbarazweige

While growing up in a small village in northern Bavaria, I always saw my mom putting Barbarazweige on top of the kitchen cabinet in early December. These otherwise brown barren twigs would come into full bloom by Christmas.

Traditionally, these twigs are cut on 4 December, also known as St. Barbara Day (Catholic church). After cutting, they should experience a slight frost by either putting them in the fridge or leaving them outside overnight. Then put them in warm water for the first night. This will cause them to bloom later as the change from frosty temperature to a warm room makes it seem like spring is coming.

After the first night of warm water, fresh cold water should be given every three days.

Barbarazweige, a German Christmas tradition

Barbarazweige, a German Christmas tradition

Short list of trees or bush which are best:

Kirsche/cherry    Apfel/apple    Forsythien/forsythia    Haselnuss/hazelnut    Zierjohannisbeer/currant    Birke/birch   Weide/willow   Schlehe/blackthorn   Goldregen/laburnum    Ginster/broom (gorse)


This tradition is based on St. Barbara (Heilige Barbara), a shopkeeper’s daughter, who was put in jail. On her way there, her dress got caught on a cherry twig. While she was in her jail cell, she watered the little twig every day. On the day of her execution, the twig blossomed.

Blossoming Twigs bring Good Fortune

Bringing Barbarazweige to blossom is an old, but almost forgotten Christmas tradition. If everything is timed properly, the blossoms come to full bloom at Christmas and this means good fortune for the coming year, and shriveled ones brings back luck.

In the old days, a young woman would write her suitors’ names on pieces of paper and hang them onto the twigs. The one, whose twig blossomed first, should be the one chosen for marriage.

This tradition is mostly forgotten. Yesterday morning, I called my neighbor, a nice elderly woman in her late 70s, and asked her for some Barbarazweige from her garden. She said I was welcome to cut some, but she was not sure if they had such a tree or bush named Barbara. I did not bother to explain this tradition over the phone, but went right over to her garden.

I believe I have twigs from an apple tree, but we shall see.

Notes from Germany

This photo is not accurate. We have no snow at the moment and the weather bureau tells us we are having the mildest winter on record in 30 years.

Nevertheless, enjoy your holidays, wherever you are.

Oberursel Christmas Market 2012 – dates and times

You can find the location, dates and times for the Oberursel Christmas market 2012 on:


List of Christmas Markets in Germany

Back by popular demand… the list of German Christmas markets.

We might get some snow again this December, which really adds a special touch to the market atmosphere; rained-out markets are no fun. But add some snowflakes, good food and drink to this, and you might even improve your German with each mulled wine.

I prefer the small town markets myself. Those are usually only held over one weekend and are much more charming than the big town markets.

You need to visit a few to see for yourself. My favorite one is in Oberursel, of course. It is spread throughout the old part of town and because of that, it does not get that crowded. You will have enough elbow room to hold your cup or Bratwurst.

The U.K. site, featuring Christmas markets in Germany, is frequently updated and now holds more than 2530 Christmas-related events.

For the English readers:  Germany Christmas market

Another site for the German readers: Weihnachtsmarkt Deutschland

Marketing German Food for Christmas

Before making my final trip to the supermarket this morning (most shops close at 2 p.m. today) to return some deposit bottles (Pfandflaschen) from last night’s birthday party, I took a photo of the ones called Weihnachtsbier.

Weihnachtsbier from Germany

Of course, it featured Santa on its label for a manly touch. I would have put an image of the Christkind on it. The beer itself was very good.

Next we picked up some items from the bakery, where Adventsbrot was featured.

Adventsbrot from Germany

I did not make it all the way to the meat counter in the back or I might have spotted some Heiligabend Wurst.


In Germany, there are 1250 different kinds of beer, 300 different types of bread and 1450 types of cold cuts/sausages. This leaves a lot of room for branding.

By the way, 89% of the Germans like to spend Christmas Eve at home with the family.

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