Day 4 of Advent: St. Barbara’s Day

Christmas is supposed to be the part of the year when people spend time with their families and loved ones. But what about those people who are alone? What are they supposed to do? Lie in bed wearing festive pajamas the whole day and munch on some sweets and junk food while watching Netflix; basically giving up on their life? Well, it’s a solution too, however, there is something else they can do. It won’t change the person’s dire situation but it will at least help them find out if the next year will be better. And for some of us, that’s definitely something! But what does it have to do with st. Barbara’s day?

Who Was st. Barbara?

Saint Barbara is a martyr who was born sometime in the 3rd century in Nicomedia and the day that was dedicated to her is December 4. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers people used to pray to especially during various epidemics – for example, the plague epidemics. So if you are a Christian, it may be the right time for you to ask them for help. 

St. Barbara was supposedly one of the Christians executed by a sword during Christian purges that occurred at the time of emperor Galerius’ reign. She is, among other things, a patroness of abused and abandoned children, miners, roofers, construction workers, carpenters, architects, cooks, or butchers. She is also worshiped as a protector from being struck by lightning, fires, violent or sudden death. 

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St. Barbara’s Day

In the Czech Republic, there is a tradition that on December 4 young single women cut a twig from a cherry, plum, or apple tree or a Forsythia shrub. If the twig blooms by Christmas, they will get married the next year. If not, they’ll have to wait for at least one more year. Sometimes they would tap the bottom end of the twig with a hammer so the twig would absorb more water and be more likely to go into bloom. In some regions, young women would cut several twigs and tie ribbons with male names to each one of them. The twig that would go into bloom first would reveal the name of their suitor and potential husband. Sadly, this tradition doesn’t say anything about single men but if you’re one, you can always try and see if it works. This still doesn’t explain what st. Barbara has to do with looking for love, though. 

There is also another almost forgotten tradition that nobody follows anymore. In the 18th century, girls and young unmarried women would go house to house on the day of st. Barbara. Usually, they were dressed all in white or black and they often had a veil and adorned their heads with a wreath. They would carry a small besom to threaten the naughty children and a basket with treats for the nice children. In some regions, they were accompanied by angels, demons, and other masked characters

Cherry blossom
If a young woman puts a twig from a cherry tree into a vase on st. Barbara’s day and it goes into bloom by Christmas, she’ll get married the next year.

Later this tradition changed a tiny bit – instead of “Barbaras” (the young women and girls) going house to house and giving out gifts to kids, children would prepare an empty bowl on the window. Then they would wait until the morning to collect the treats st. Barbara left in the bowl for them. If you have lived in the Czech Republic for some time and know at least a little bit about how Czechs celebrate Christmas, this tradition may sound familiar to you. It is very similar to the celebrations of St. Nicholas’ Day, only st. Barbara was essentially replaced by St. Nicholas.

There are also some proverbs related to the st. Barbara’s Day. One says “o svaté Barboře, sníh leží na dvoře”, which basically means that on that thay it is supposed to snow. Another one says if it snows on st. Barbara’s day, grass will grow high, and if trees are frosted, there will be a good harvest of fruits. So let’s wait and see how it turns out. 

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Anna Minjaríková

Hello, readers! My job is to provide you with some interesting tips and useful information about all the things Czech. ♫ I'll be there for you! ♫

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