November 19, 2012
The holidays are upon us—Thanksgiving is this week!—and I’m so excited. I love this time of year. I hope your house is as warm and cinnamony and full of love and happy anticipation as mine is.
I hope you’ll forgive me jumping ahead just a little bit, but I want to share one of our December traditions and this is my last chance to post before it happens. On December 13th, my family will observe Santa Lucia Day.
My husband served his mission in Sweden and he often talks about how beautiful the Christmas season was over there. I have made an effort to incorporate some of their traditions, especially since we both have Scandinavian ancestry. Santa Lucia is one we have found to be both beautiful and in harmony with our desire to center Christmas on Christ and His gospel.
There are many legends behind the original identity of Santa Lucia or Saint Lucy. The one I like most is the one that says she was a Christian maiden who brought food and sustenance to the poor, wearing candles on her head to leave her hands free for service.
On December 13th, once thought to be the darkest day of the year, the eldest daughter in a Swedish family rises early, before it is light. She prepares a special breakfast for her parents of saffron buns and a warm beverage. Then, dressed as Santa Lucia in long white robe with a red sash and a wreath of candles in her hair, she delivers this meal to her parents. Other siblings may accompany her as white-robed attendants, but without the wreath of candles. There is a special song they can sing as the deliver the food as well.
My oldest daughter was five last year, so we adapted things a bit. Since this was particularly meaningful to our family I splurged on a Santa Lucia crown from a Swedish import store with silk greenery and electric candles. You could easily make your own adaptation, even just out of paper. I threw together a simple white shift with some white fabric I already had on hand, but again, depending on the age of your daughter you could use one of your husband’s white Sunday shirts or whatever you had on hand. I bought some red ribbon for her sash and promptly lost it, so she ended up using my nice burgundy Sunday scarf. The costume is very versatile.
So is the menu. I liked the idea of the traditional saffron buns and hope to try them sometime, but last year we did muffins. And as you can see, our dishes weren’t fancy. But my little girl just LOVED serving Daddy in bed and then everyone else in the family.
I wanted to teach the kids the special Santa Lucia song (it is so beautiful!), but I had no confidence in my ability to get the pronunciation correct and since this was all going to be a surprise to my husband I couldn’t get him to help. There was an English translation, but I thought it was too focused on exalting Santa Lucia herself instead of about her being a servant of Christ. What we ended up doing was bringing up the YouTube video on my phone and playing it as we walked into the room. Since then, I have been working on my own version of the lyrics that is more in line with our LDS theology.
I really feel that Santa Lucia Day is a very worthy tradition, as it gives us an opportunity to teach our children that we are the Lord’s hands here on the earth and we can bring His light and His hope to those in darkness. It is very service-oriented at a time of year that can get greedy and selfish. I look forward to it being a cherished part of our family Christmas traditions for many years.
Sarah (Birrd) and her husband (Badger) and their five children will be welcoming a new baby to their Oklahoma homestead sometime before the end of November. She is looking forward to a quiet December at home snuggling a newborn in front of the Christmas tree and listening to lots and lots of peaceful Christmas music. Follow along at her personal blog, Tales from Toad Hall.