Saint Barbara's Day
The Feast of Saint Barbara is the first festival of the Christmas season at Caprilands. Her legend had its beginning in the East, and she is still a familiar figure throughout the near East and Asia Minor. Relatively unknown in England, she is the patron saint of Ferrara and Mantua in italy.
Barbara is supposed to have lived in the third century. Her father, Dioscorus, a pagan Greek of great wealth, imprisoned his beautiful daughter in a tower to protect her from the world. In her solitude, she was secretly converted to Christianity and baptized. While her father was on a journey, she added a third window to her tower to symbolize the Trinity. For her refusal to practice pagen rites, she was tortured and finally put to death by her own father whom lightning instantly destroyed.
Saint Barbara is a protector against lightning, fire, storm and sudden death, and by analogy, patron of armorers, gunsmiths, and artillerymen. Her customary emblem is a tower. She is also depicted with a book, a cup representing her sacraments, a palm, symbol of victory, a sword for martyrdom, a crown, wheat for the bread, and a rose for the miracle of substitution.
In Syria, Saint Barbara's Eve was celebrated as a masquerade. Children, in fantastic costumes visited from house to house, singing, asking for a blessing and gifts of decorated eggs, coins, or candies made of wheat. Wheat in various forms was displayed in this final harvest festival of the year for which baklava and other pastries baked in traditional molds, and sweets of wheat, sugar, and rose water were prepared.
As a beautiful and courageous figure, Saint Barbara became an inspiration to young girls. Her day was celebrated with fortune telling, in her honor, t hey forced fruit tree branches to blossom at Christmas, competing with each other to have the largest blooms. If a young man stole a branch from a girl's bouquet, he was likely to become her husband.
Saint Barbara was associated with the harvest, and wheat is often her symbol, although other plants bear her name as Barbarea vulgaris or winter-cress, herbe de St. Barbe, and barbenkraut. A popular custom was to sow grain in moss in two plates, watering it until sprouts appeared. The percentage that grew was indication of the next harvest, the angle of the sprouts, the direction of the prevailing winds.
Honoring the legendary Saint Barbara, assemble a wreath themed for her day include her various symbols.
Arrange long sprays of wheat in a wooden mortar, and fild and rub a sickle with raw umber.
A sword, a chalice, a palm, and a painting of the Saint with her tower identify her legend.
On the table, bowls of puffed wheat represent the Syrian dainties.
Outdoors raise a sheaf of grain to t he birds on the great wagon wheel feeding station and wire a shock of corn there for both food and shelter.
Wheat and golden roses decorate the mantels.