Saint Barbara Branches

It was stormy and rainy today and I rushed outside in the fading afternoon light, well wrapped up, to cut apple and damson twigs for Saint Barbara’s Day, as every year.

It is an old German custom to pick small branches from flowering wood (such as cherry tree, chestnut, apple tree) the 4th of December, the feast day of Saint Barbara, to put the cuttings in a vase and wait until Christmas to see them in bloom. I have never heard about this Advent tradition here in Sweden, but I love to continue with this custom here at Björkåsa. It gives me so much peace and quiet in a time that usually is quite busy. To halt, even if only for a few moments every day, to take a walk and bring nature inside our home and to remember old traditions is what Advent means to me.

According to the legend, Barbara (one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers) was a Christian saint and martyr who lived in the 3rd century in Nicomedia/ Turkey. It is said that she was a young woman who confessed herself to be Christian, was denounced by her own father and then got tortured and sentenced to death. On her way to prison, a dried up cherry twig go stuck on her vest. In the prison tower, Barbara put the twig in a vase and moistened it with her tears every day and found consolation in watching it. Unexpectedly, the branch started blooming the day of her execution.

It is an old custom in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to pick branches from flowering trees the 4th of December in memory of St. Barbara. In the old days, the cuttings were prettied up with sweets and little gifts. If the St. Barbara branches started to bloom on Christmas Day, it was considered to be a good sign for the new year – and who couldn’t use an extra portion of good luck?

Sending you a stormy breeze from Björkåsa,

Juliane