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December 4


Saint of the day:
Saint Barbara

Patron Saint of armourers, artillerymen, architects, mathematicians, miners, Fireworks

Saint Barbara's Story

A beautiful maiden imprisoned in a high tower by her father Dioscorus for disobedience. While there, she was tutored by philosphers, orators and poets. From them she learned to think, and decided that polytheism was nonsense. With the help of Origen and Valentinian, she converted to Christianity.

Her father denounced her to the local authorities for her faith, and they ordered him to kill her. She escaped, but he caught her, dragged her home by her hair, tortured her, and killed her. He was immediately struck by lightning, or according to some sources, fire from heaven.

Her imprisonment led to her association with towers, then the construction and maintenance of them, then to their military uses. The lightning that avenged her murder led to asking her protection against fire and lightning, and her patronage of firefighters, etc. Her association with things military and with death that falls from the sky led to her patronage of all things related to artillery, and her image graced powder magazines and arsenals for years. One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

While there were undoubtedly beautiful converts named Barbara, this saint is legend, and her cultus developed when pious fiction was mistaken for history.

*Saint Barbara: Patron Saint of Fireworks
Barbara was first invoked during thunderstorms, then against sudden deaths in general. But then somebody invented gunpowder and artillery, creating a whole industry where accidental sudden death was a daily risk. Suddenly Saint Barbara was very popular in all the explosion-based activities, and thus became the patron saint of fireworks.

Reliquary Bust of Saint Barbara. Strasbourg, c. 1465





St Volodymyr's Cathedral

in the centre of Kiev, Ukraine

Inside St Volodymyr's Cathedral, Kiev-L.


Songs of the season:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Canon (Video)

My son's favorite fun song!
Gayla Peevey - The Christmas Hippo Song




Crafts, Recipes, Family Fun Times:

Fun cooking project would be to make

a geode cake or cup cakes,

use rock candy to make geodes

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Today marks the fourth day of December and in parts of France and Germany  St. Barbara's Day, or as we call it, Barbartag, on December 4, is considered to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. According to legend, Barbara, the daughter of a rich pagan, was carefully guarded by her father who kept her locked up in a tower in order to to shield her from outside influences.

German-speaking countries celebrate the tradition of the St. Barbara's branch, or as we call it the Barbarazweig.  The original folklore was that unmarried girls cut twigs from cherry trees and forced them into bloom. There is an old belief that if the twig blossoms on Christmas Eve, the girl will be married the following year. The practice of forcing the blooms on the cherry tree twigs comes from a legend that while St. Barbara was locked in her tower, she felt lonely. She found a dried up cherry tree branch which she watered daily with a few drops from her drinking water and it is said to have flowered on the day of her untimely death.

To this day, this is a nice decoration for your home during the winter season. Branches from other flowering plants or trees may be used, such as apple, forsythia, plum, lilac, or chestnut but cherry is the preferred.

On a day with mild temperatures, pick branches that have swollen buds and cut stems. Crush the ends of the branches, and submerge in a tub of cool, not icy, water for several hours. Place the branches in a large vase of water. For a few days, leave the branches in a cool area. As the buds begin to swell bring the branches into a warm room, but not in direct heat and when the blooms appear, place the branches in a sunny window. Change water every two days. Thin branches force more quickly than thick ones – it will take from one to four weeks for the brach to bloom.

In my pictures I placed the branch from our cherry tree next to a small version of the St.Barbara´s Cake, or Barbarakuchen as we call it in German. This is an old traditional German cake recipe that makes a lovely lemon-flavored cake to go with a cup of coffee or some lovely tea on the feast of St. Barbara.

St. Barbara's Cake - Barbarakuchen

Ingredients for the Cake


  • 200 g unsalted butter, room temperature,
    plus some to flour the baking pan(s)

  • 250 g superfine baking sugar

  • the grated zest from one organic lemon

  • 4 eggs, organic or free range

  • 125 g AP flour, plus some to flour the baking pan(s)

  • 125 g corn starch

  • 2 tsps baking powder

  • a pinch of fine sea salt

Ingredients for the Icing

  • 150 g powdered sugar

  • 2 - 3 tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice


  1. Preheat your oven
    to 180 ° C (356° F) or 160° C (320° F )
    for convection ovens.

  2. Butter and flour your loaf pan(s). NOTE: I use one large one
    (30 x 11 cm or 11 x 4 inches)
    or five small ones (11 x 7 cm or 4 x 2 inches).

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt.

  4. In another bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 8 minutes.

  5. Add zest, then eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down bowl as needed.

  6. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in two additions, beat until combined.

  7. Transfer batter to prepared pan(s) – the pans should be about 2/3 full.

  8. Bake until the cakes spring back when lightly touched or a skewer inserted in center comes out clean, depending on the size of your pans, that will take about 40 to 45 minutes for the small and about 55 to 60 minutes for the large.

  9. Let cool in pan(s) on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, for about 30 minutes. 
    NOTE: Setting the racks in a rimmed baking sheet will make sure that any excess glaze will drip onto the baking sheets instead of your counter.

  10. Remove loaf or loaves from pan(s) and let cool completely on rack.

  11. Whisk powdered sugar and about 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice to make glaze.

  12. Drizzle over the loaf cake(s) and let stand until set (that will take about 30 – 60 minutes, depending on how thick your glaze is).

The loaf shape of the finished St. Barbara´s cake is said to be reminiscent of the tower that Barbara was locked in by her father. This cake is traditionally glazed with a thick powdered sugar and lemon juice glaze but there is also a version in Bavaria, where the cake is glazed with dark chocolate instead to look like tree bark.

Lemon Loaf


Lemon Loaf

  •  3 large eggs

  •  1 cup granulated sugar

  •  1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream or Greek yogurt 

  •  1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

  •  2 tablespoons lemon zest

  •  2 tablespoons lemon extract, to taste 

  •  1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  •  2 teaspoons baking powder

  •  1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Lemon Glaze

  •  1 cup confectioners’ sugar

  •  3 tablespoons lemon juice, or as necessary for consistency


Make the Loaf

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
  2. To a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, sour cream, and whisk vigorously until smooth and combined.

  3. Drizzle in the oil while whisking to combine.

  4. Add the lemon zest, lemon extract, and whisk to combine. Note – I used 2 tablespoons of lemon extract because no actual lemon juice is used in the loaf and I found 2 tablespoons lemon extract necessary for full-bodied lemon flavor, but add to taste.

  5. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and stir until just combined, don’t over mix. Some lumps will be present and that’s okay, don’t try to stir them smooth.

  6. Turn the batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.

  7. Bake for about 50 to 52 minutes, or until top is domed, set, and toothpick inserted in the center crack comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs but no batter. In the last 10 minutes of baking, tent pan with foil (loosely drape a sheet of foil over pan) to prevent excessive browning on the top and sides of bread before center cooks through.

  8. Allow loaf to cool in pan on top of a wire rack for at least 60 minutes before turning out onto rack to cool completely before glazing.

Make the Lemon Glaze

  1. To a small bowl, add the confectioner’s sugar and slowly drizzle in the lemon juice while whisking until smooth and combined. You may need to play with the sugar and lemon juice amounts a bit as necessary for desired consistency and flavor.

  2. Evenly drizzle glaze over bread before slicing and serving.

  3. Extra glaze can be spread on the cut surface of the bread like you’d spread butter on toast and it soaks right in making the bread even moister and more lemony. Or you can halve the glaze recipe if you’re not a glaze person.

Family fun time at the gun range

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