Sunday, December 13, 2009

Guest Post: St. Lucia’s Day

Today I have a special guest post from Celi.a, who blogs over at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia. She's agreed to post about one of her favorite family traditions for Christmas. So without further ado, here we go:

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is something that 98% of Americans won’t have heard of. It’s called St. Lucia’s Day. It’s a saint day, dating back to the original (or so they say) Saint Lucia in Sicily in 300 AD, when that intrepid young woman brought food to persecuted Christians living in the catacombs. The story says that she needed both hands for the food and finding her way through the maze of underground tombs, so she wore a wreath of candles in her hair to light the way.

By now, you’re probably thinking that this sounds like either the ultimate fire hazard or a very strange sort of story…after all, tombs? Persecuted Christians? How does this have anything to do with Christmas?

But it’s actually a big Scandinavian holiday, especially popular in Sweden (according to both Wikipedia and my Swedish friend Simon). How do you celebrate St. Lucia’s Day, then? On the 13th of December, before dawn, a girl is supposed to get up and make a breakfast or sweets, and then deliver them wearing a white robe and red sash, and with lights in her hair. Sometimes the observance is officially sanctioned in a church service, but at our house we just fed the family breakfast. The purpose is to remember that light overcomes darkness.

So how did we hear of this holiday, much less end up celebrating it? My dad’s family is Danish-American, so when my mom learned about this tradition, she wanted us to carry it on in our family. What that meant on the ground is that my sister and I would take turns every year getting up at 5am. We’d bake special meat and cheese rolls and serve kringle (a Scandinavian pastry) by candlelight to our family, all while wearing a white gown and a wreath on our heads full of battery-powered Christmas lights.

Does that sound kind of cheesy? We were SO delighted whenever it was our turn to play Saint Lucia. I remember meticulously laying out the robe and sash and triple-checking to make sure the lights would work. And the St. Lucia Day breakfast was probably the first time I ever baked on my own, without any help from mom. There are some really precious memories tied up with that holiday, and I can’t wait until there are little girls in the family again to teach about St. Lucia and her festival of light.


Rhiannon Hart said...

That's such a lovely story! I've never heard of this tradition before. But whoa, candles in your hair. Glad you used fairy lights instead!

Cecelia said...

Thanks for having me on your blog! I enjoyed writing about a wonderful Christmas tradition. Many wishes for a very happy holiday season!

Jenny N. said...

Thanks for sharing as its my first time hearing about this tradition as well.

vvb32 reads said...

i hadn't heard about this before either so it is a treat to learn about. thanks for sharing it. now, whoa. that last picture with is really something. looks like her hair is on fire, but she seems to be walking calmly (no arms waving about or anyone coming at her with a pillow to smother it out) so that's okay. ha! ;-D

Anonymous said...

I think I heard of this tradition in grade school when we were learning about other countries' traditions. It also seemed really neat to me then and I can see why you would enjoy it.