Sunday, December 13, 2009

St. Lucia Day

Heidi as St. Lucia 1986

Every December 13th I made a crown out of a paper plate, clipped on little red candles, placed it on the head of one of my precious daughters and LIT IT ON FIRE! Little Swedish girls had done it for centuries . . . hey, a little singed hair is the price of heritage.

With Scandinavians on both sides of the aisle, we embraced this time-honored tradition.

James Andrew and Mary Vincent Halverson, 1914

Axel Herman & Agnes Matilda Lavin Lundgren, 1914

There are many versions of the Lucia legend. This is the one I've passed down:

Lucy was a young Christian girl martyred for her beliefs centuries ago in Rome. She was made a Saint, and remembered as St. Lucia in the Scandinavian countries. One especially dark and hopeless December the people in a poor village were starving. From across the lake they could see a blaze of brightness coming toward them. It was Lucia, her blond hair encircled by a halo of brilliant light, wearing a white robe with a red sash, bringing them bread. She was accompanied by young boys, their faces also illuminated as if by the stars, hauling sacks of food.

Since then the day has been celebrated as the Festival of Lights in Sweden. In some families the oldest daughter wakes up before dawn, and prepares a breakfast tray for her parents. She dresses in a white robe, with a red ribbon sash and wears a crown of candles. Her younger brothers play the part of the Star Boys, also wearing white, carrying pictures of stars. This is the start of Christmas festivities in their home.

I'm not sure of the meaning others give this tradition. To me, Lucia Day symbolizes the light Jesus Christ brings to the world, and the Bread of Life He provides for us. He gives a dark world hope. It's a lovely way to remember the reason I celebrate Christmas.

What lights up Christmas for you?

(Eventually we got a safe replica of a St Lucia Crown. It had fake candles lit with batteries.)


Kay Dennison said...

Not much these days. However, I still have an Advent Wreath and light the candles and say the prayers each day.

Misty said...

Oh, I like this one! My father-in-law served his mission in Italy and brought back La Befana that the whole family has continued. We also do a 'Jesus Stocking' in my family where we set out an extra stocking. Throughout December, we write good deeds we've seen done and put the papers in the stocking. On Christmas Eve, we read all of the good deeds as a family and that's our gift to Christ - service to others. So many memories, so much fun!

KJ said...

togetherness and coziness and the faces of my wee ones as they gaze at the tree, or sing wrong words to songs about bells, or read stories about trains that go to the north pole, or sing "rock-a-bye baby" to the baby jesus in our nativity. it's all magic and sweetness and purity to them.

gab said...

I think you know my children well enough by now to understand why we do NOT carry on this family tradition.

the wrath of khandrea said...

i was really trying to see some halverson family genes in their faces, but alas... i see no resemblance. i did, however, laugh out loud at the singed hair.

Christie said...

We don't do this one, either. I think because by the time we got a girl, we were already too ensconced in other traditions. Like the one where I don't have to do any extra work on December 13th. They would like it now though.

polly said...

at grama Lundgren's Christmas Eve party I was so excited when I was old enough to be Santa Lucia. I love this tradition!