Christmas Fact 4


4. Dezember – Der Adventskalender

The Barbara Branch custom on December 4th is an interesting effort to bring forth spring in the midst of winter. Barbarazweig (“Barbara twig” or “Barbara branch”) is based on a legend concerning Saint Barbara (die Heilige Barbara in German, or Santa Barbara in Spanish/Italian). On her name day (December 4th) many Austrians and Germans carry out an interesting pre-Christmas custom related to the legend of die Heilige Barbara. On that day they take a twig or small branch from a cherry tree or other fruit tree, bring it inside and place it in a vase of water. If all goes as planned… More…

Barbara shrine

The St. Barbara shrine in the now abandoned German iron ore mine Schacht Konrad in Salzgitter, Germany.
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Saint Barbara
There is doubt that she ever existed. Her official designation – Barbara of Nicomedia (Barbara von Nikomedien) – implies she was from that Greek town in Asia Minor (now in Turkey), but the location of the events in the life of the “Great Martyr Barbara” are far from certain. Even the site of her martyrdom (her beheading at the hands of her father) is unknown, as is the year (267 or between 286-305) of that event. Possible locations of her martyrdom are variously given as Tuscany, Rome, Antioch, Baalbek, and Nicomedia.

It is because of this uncertainty that the Roman Catholic church removed her from the calendar of saints. She is still mentioned in the Roman Martyrology, which also lists another ten martyr saints named Barbara. Her feast day is still December 4 in the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Anglican churches. (December 17 in Russia and the Eastern Orthodox churches.) And she is still the patron saint of miners, artillerymen, and firemen.

For more about St. Barbara and her legend, see the link below. In any case, the Barbarazweig custom is a fun thing to do, whether Barbara was real person or not.

MORE > Barbara: The Name, the Legend

For more about “Barbarazweig” see the web links below.


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