ʻAdvent Traditionsʻ - The Feast of St. Barbara

During this Advent season (a time of penitential preparation and restrained joy in anticipation of the birth of Christ) there are many beautiful traditions that ages of Catholics participated in that have sadly been replaced with commercialized holiday shopping and premature Christmas parties. I would like to, on this blog, share some of those traditions throughout this Advent season as a means of slowly restoring some of the beautiful Catholic Advent traditions.

Today (December 4th) is the Feast of St. Barabara, Virgin and Martyr. The Pictorial Lives of the Saints (Shea, J.G., 1887) recounts her story here:  
"ST. BARBARA was brought up a heathen. A tyrannical father, Dioscorus, had kept her jealously secluded in a lonely tower which he had built for the purpose. Here, in her forced solitude, she gave herself to prayer and study, and contrived to receive instruction and baptism by stealth from a Christian priest. Dioscorus, on discovering his daughter’s conversion, was beside himself with rage. He himself denounced her before the civil tribunal. Barbara was horribly tortured, and at last was beheaded, her own father, merciless to the last, acting as her executioner. God, however, speedily punished her persecutors. While her soul was being borne by angels to Paradise, a flash of lightning struck Dioscorus, and he was hurried before the judgment-seat of God."

Tradition has it that while St. Barbara was captive in the tower she kept a branch of cherry tree which she watered and tended to. On the day of her martyrdom, it blossomed! A beautiful Advent tradition stemmed from this and is usually (but not necessarily) reserved for the unmarried members of a household: 
"On the fourth of December, unmarried members of the household are supposed to go out into the orchard and cut twigs from the cherry trees  and put them into water. There is an old belief that whoever's cherry  twig blossoms on Christmas Day can expect to get married in the following  year. As most of us are always on tour at this time of the year, someone at home will be commissioned to "cut the cherry twigs." These will be put  in a vase in a dark corner, each one with a name tag, and on Christmas  Day they will be eagerly examined; and even if they are good for nothing  else, they provide a nice table decoration for the Christmas dinner." - ʻAround the Year with the TRAPP FAMILYʻ, Maria Augusta Trapp, 1955. Pantheon Books
image from the 'Public domain' {{PD-Art}} .San Clemente de Roma
image from The Pictorial Lives of the Saints (Shea, J.G., 1887). Public Domain