Thursday, December 4, 2008

December Stories and Songs, Part Four

Today is St. Barbara's Day in German-speaking countries.  St. Barbara is the patron saint of artillerymen (my father was one), although I'm not sure why. Her story is reminiscent of Rapunzel because she was shut up in a tower. When her father learned that she had been baptized against his wishes, he condemned her to death. In her prison cell, her one earthly comfort was a cherrytree branch, which she watered daily with drops of her drinking water until it bloomed.  In parts of Germany still, a Barbarazweig (twig or branch) is brought in to the house on St. Barbara's Day to be forced; if it blooms on Christmas Day it's good luck.

In Visions of Sugarplums, a great Christmas cookbook by Mimi Sheraton, there's more on St. Barbara and special dishes to make for her day.

So, a story from a German-speaking country for today: Schnitzle, Schnotzle and Schnootzle as retold by Ruth Sawyer in her book The Long Christmas.  I don't have a picture of the cover, nor does anyone else, it seems. But it's available at public libraries and through or other used booksellers.  It's based on the familiar folk motif of the visiting stranger who rewards hospitality, and comes from the Austrian Tyrol.

The song that goes with it sounds like a lovely lullaby: Aba Heidschi Bumbeidschi.  I chose it partly because it's sung in (I think) an Austrian dialect, and sounds "nonsensical" just like Schnitzle, Schnotzle and Schnootzle.  In reality, if you can understand all the words it is not a song you would choose to sing to a child. The original lyrics translate roughly to "Aba Heidschi Bumbeidschi, sleep long, your mother has gone away, she has gone away and will never return, and has left her baby all alone."  They continue on with a suggestion that the child should go to heaven and live with the angels!  Apparently, a newer version has different words as sung by Engelbert Humperdinck and similar vocalists.  But the Konrad Plaickner Chorus is traditional on the album Christmas in the Alps. Happy St. Barbara's Day! (By the way, doesn't have a greeting card for her. Sad.)


Mary Beth said...

Bridge Building Images has a St. Barbara medal:

Sophia said...

I didn't know about the cherry tree branch part of the story.

I believe the patronage of artillerymen is because of the lightning bolt from heaven that took out her dad when he tried to chop off her head!