What do St Barbara and Omar Khayyam have in common?


The 4th of December is the commemoration day of Saint Barbara of Nikomedien. She was, according to one of the many legends, locked in a tower in the 3rd century in Nikomedia (Asia Minor) by her father Dioskuros, a rich businessman, and later beheaded because she refused to marry a disbelieving husband. According to the legend, on her way to the tower her dress got caught in a cherry tree and broke a branch. When Barbara, arriving in her prison, noticed the withered cherry branch, she began to wet it with drops of water. On the day of her death the branch is said to have blossomed.
According to custom, on the day of her death, December 4, cherry branches are brought into the house and placed in a vase. When these blossom at Christmas, then happiness and positive things will hold retreat in the coming year.

It is also reported of a love spell: Loved women set up a cherry branch for each admirer. The branch that begins to blossom first points to the future husband.

The 4th of December is also the anniversary of the death of the famous poet Hakim Abul Fath Ghiaseddin Omar Khayyam, briefly called Omar Khayyam (Omar the tentmaker). He lived from 1048 to 1131 in Nishabour, a town in the Persian province of Khorasan. He was an important mathematician, astronomer and jurist, a mystic and universal scholar of his time. The modern Iranian calendar is based on his calculations.

Omar Khayyam also gained fame as the author of the poetry and poembook “Rubaiyat”. A Rubai consists of only four lines, whose characteristic is the rhyme game, which brought Khayyam to perfection. The first, second and fourth lines end in the same rhyming sound, while the third line remains rhymeless. The scheme is called ‘aaba’, and is one of the oldest forms of Persian poetry. The Rubai often ends with a surprising twist that makes you think, and each Rubai is a self-contained work.

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon

Turns Ashes-or it prospers; and anon,

Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face

Lighting a little Hour or Two-is gone.

Omar Khayyam in Ruba'iyat (Quatrains) of Hamid Omar Khayyam, rendered into English verse by Edward Fitzgerald; Yassavoli (2012), Teheran, Iran

Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883), an English poet and writer, was enthusiastic about Khayyam’s Rubaiyat and translated it with a very free adaptation and selection of verses. His version is considered as a classic of English literature.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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