We are celebrating Saint Barbara on December 4th. Barbara was a young woman who lived around 200 and had to die because of her Christian faith. The legend says that on her way to prison, a cherry branch got tangled in her dress. She put it in water and it bloomed the day she was executed. It is interpreted as something that seemed dead blossomed again and that Barbara, too, was looking towards not death but eternal life.
Now, this story has for sure some cruel elements. The tradition got rid of those parts but kept the act of finding a cherry branch on December 4th, putting it into water and hoping for it to bloom on Christmas.
It seems a rather unexciting act. Putting a wooden stick into a vase. And then… a lot of nothing… a lot of waiting. That’s not what we are generally looking for or wishing for. We are used to immediate satisfaction. We want things on-demand.
We often forget, however, that when everything comes to us “on-demand”, we lose something very exciting. We lose the gift of anticipation.
Christmas is not the whole month of December. Advent is. We are looking forward and preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ. For children and adults this can be a giddy time. We might open doors on our advent calendar, light another candle on our advent wreath, or watch the cherry branch, very slowly, show the first signs of life. We sing songs and decorate. We bake and read stories; We wait – sometimes patiently and sometimes not so patiently – for Christmas day to come.
For me, the time of anticipation is the most precious time. There seems to be magic in the air. There is a joy of waiting that I want my children to experience. There is passion of expectation that needs to be experienced – to the fullest. For this to happen, we need to allow time for this to unfold. How tempting is it sometimes to give in and maybe just let them have one present before? How appealing does it seem some days to make that special hot cocoa that is traditionally only served on Christmas morning? How beautiful would it look if we would just go out and buy flowers that are already in bloom instead of looking at a bare branch for weeks?
Simplicity Parenting talks about anticipation as something that builds identity:
“Anticipating gratification, rather than expecting or demanding it, strengthens a child’s will. Impulsivity, wanting everything now, leaves the will weak, flaccid. As a child lives with anticipation, as it strengthens over time, so too does their sense of themselves, their ego.”
Let’s go out and put those branches in the water. Let’s experience the miracle of waiting and anticipate the day when the flower will bloom. Let’s be in the moment and not rush toward Christmas. Because all this magic that we find in the air right now will be gone quickly once we arrive at our destination and the waiting has an end. Let’s celebrate the bare branch for a while.