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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Celebrating December's Saints

Today, I thought I would celebrate the saints of December beginning with St. Barbara.

St. Barbara's Day Recipes

The traditional feast day of Saint Barbara is December 4th, and this date plays a key role in the interesting legend that bears the name of St. Barbara. Imprisoned, depressed and alone under a dried up cherry tree branch, she moistened it daily with a few drops from her drinking water. She was greatly consoled by the beautiful cherry blossoms that appeared just days before her impending execution.

Barbarazweig The Barbara Branch Custom

Traditionally in the German-speaking countries, particularly in Austria and the Catholic regions of Germany, a small cherry branch is cut off and placed in water on December 4th, St. Barbara's Day. Sometimes a twig from some other flowering plant or tree may be used: apple, forsythia, plum, lilac, or similar blossoms. But it is the cherry tree that is most customary and authentic. This custom is known as Barbarazweig or Barbara Branch. The cherry branch (Kirschzweig) or other cutting is then placed in water and kept in a warm room. If all goes well, on Christmas day the twig will display blossoms. If it blooms precisely on December 25th, this is regarded as a particularly good sign for the future. source

St. Nicholas Day Recipes

The feast day of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on December 6th. St. Nicholas was bishop of Myra in Lycia which is now part of Turkey. He was known for his charity, especially towards children. St. Nicholas popularized Santa Claus. He died in the fourth century. St. Nicholas is the Patron Saint of Bakers, Brewers, and Brides. recipes to celebrate St. Nicholas Day.

St. Lucy's Day

Cuccia is a traditional dessert, served only on St. Lucy's day In Sicilian households. In legend, Saint Lucy brought wheat berries to the Sicilians. The people celebrate Santa Lucia on her feast day December 13th, by fasting from ground wheat in any form, including bread and pasta, rolls and sweets! (St. Lucy's Day Cuccia recipe)

In Sweden, artfully twisted saffron buns called lussekatter are the must have for St Lucy’s Day on 13 December, when the eldest girl of the family wears a crown of candles and carries a tray of coffee and lussekatter into her parents’ bedroom for a holiday breakfast.

And I will stay awake throughout the longest winter night
And dress up in a red silk sash and flowing gown of white
And serve my parents with warm sweets and sing for their delight.
And I will wear upon my head a crown of fragrant green
Ablaze with tall white candles, with golden candle-gleam,
And I will be a Lussibrud as in some wondrous dream.
And as the night begins to fade I'll greet December sun
And knock on all the neighbors' doors and sing to everyone
And offer all the friends I greet a golden saffron bun.
Lucia maidens will come too, with silver in their hair
And star boys with their studded wands and pointed caps to wear,
And elfin boys will follow us as we walk everywhere.
And I will stay awake throughout the longest winter night
And dress up in my silken sash, my crown, my robe of white
And I will be, for one brief day, Lucia of the Light.
Myra Cohn Livingston

St. Ignatius' Day

St. Ignatius' Day is celebrated on December 20 in Bulgaria. Folk beliefs hold it that the Mother of Jesus began her labours on St. Ignatius’ Day and gave birth to God’s son on Christmas Eve, but that she told of it only on the next day. The popular belief holds this day as the beginning of the new year. The individual who enters the house first is known as “poleznik”. He is given an Ignatian ring-shaped bun and he sits at the head of the table. Early in the morning of Saint Ignatius’ Day the women make fire, put a pot of pulse on it and knead dough to make kolaks(ring-shaped cakes), one for each family member and one which is kept for Christmas Eve.

St. Thomas, the Apostle

December 21 was traditionally the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle; his feast is now celebrated on July 3rd. December 21 is usually the shortest day of the year, (winter solstice) yet this day usually commenced the Christmas preparation of cleaning and baking. Throughout the Alps in Austria, baking Kletzenbrot and other Christmas treats begins on December 21, originally the feast of St. Thomas. Kletzenbrot is named after the Tyrolian word for dried pears, but the Christmas bread contains a variety of nuts and fruits. Years ago, this was the day widows and poor women went "a-Thomassing". That was going door to door asking for food and money to get their families through the winter. A shilling to each widow, and sixpence to each wife, was the traditional amount. A recipe and nursery rhyme for St. Thomas Day.

St. Thorlakur

On December 23rd, the Day of St. Thorlakur is a part of Iceland's Christmas Food Customs. The Day of St. Thorlakur is associated with skate (fish) in Iceland.

St. Stephen

The charity of St. Stephen is the reason for the songs and customs which have become the traditional manner of celebrating his feast on December 26. On this day in Poland, Christians traditionally bake a bread in the form of a horseshoe called "St. Stephen's Horns." There are also recipes for St. Stephen's Day Pie and St. Stephen's Day Hot Pot.

St. John's Day

St. John's day is December 27. His feast day is celebrated with wine.

St. Sylvester's Day

In Poland, Poncz Sylwestrowy ("Sylvester's Punch"), a strong rum mixture, and doughnuts with coins hidden in them are served at midnight on the feast day of St. Sylvester, December 31. recipe

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