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…
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.
For more about “Barbarazweig” see the web links below.
AT THE GERMAN WAY
- Christmas from A to Z – German Christmas traditions and terms
- Advent – The Latin word means “arrival.” This custom begins on the first Advent Sunday around December 1.
- Photo Gallery: Christmas in Germany – Berlin – A visual tour of Christmas markets and other December sights in Berlin
- Christmas in the USA and Germany– A comparison chart
- German Christmas Carols – Popular carols with lyrics in German and English
- Barbarazweig – The legend and the Christmas custom
- Epiphany and the Sternsinger – January 6 in the Germanic Christmas tradition
- Erntedank (“harvest thanksgiving”) or Erntedankfest in Germany and Austria is different from the American Thanksgiving tradition.
- St. Nicholas – The many German St. Nicks
- Thomas Nast created the modern Santa image.
- The Christmas Pickle Ornament – Fact or fiction?
- Silent Night (Stille Nacht) – Our “Silent Night” page has the true story and related links.
- Holidays and Celebrations in Austria, Germany and Switzerland
- Glass Ornaments – a history
ON THE WEB
- Die heilige Barbara – geköpft vom eigenen Vater (in German)
- Barbarazweig – Wikipedia (Deutsch)
- Saint Barbara – Wikipedia (English)
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