Monday, December 5, 2011

A French Christmas - The Feast of Saint Barbara

Wheat of Saint Barbara

For some in Provencal France, the "Christmas Season" beings on December 4th with the Feast of Saint Barbara, when wheat (or sometimes lentil) seeds are planted on damp cotton wool in three small saucers and kept moist throughout Advent. These three plantings represent the Holy Trinity. Packets of wheat seeds are sold in bakeries, pharmacies and certain banks in aid of the children's charity Le Blé de l'Espérance. In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, little pots of the wheat of Saint Barbara can be seen sprouting up on counters and windowsills all over France.

The tradition of the Feast of Saint Barbara is that the higher and faster the wheat grows, the more prosperous the upcoming year will be. There is even a common saying in Provence, "Quand lou blad vèn bèn, tout vèn bèn" which means "When the wheat goes well, everything goes well."

By Christmas Eve, the wheat plantings have grown and the saucers are decorated with red ribbons and placed on the table to accompany the Christmas Eve meal called "The Great Supper." After the Great Supper, the wheat may be used to adorn the Nativity crib in the creche, representing fields of wheat. In the New Year, peasants often plant the seedlings into their real fields to assure a good harvest.

Joyeux Noël, Mitty

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