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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Red Reading Boots: Lucia Morning in Sweden

ph_lussekatterbunThis week is full of preparations at our house. Lucia Day comes on Sunday and our household’s Lucia wishes to make the Lussekatter buns this year. I’ve learned not to stand in her way—she cannot be deterred.

The magic of St. Lucia was introduced to our family fourteen years ago. It was a difficult December for us and our dark days were in need of some light and love, which was provided by some dear friends who arrived on our doorstep in the very early morning, waking us with song, candlelight, and a scrumptious Swedish breakfast feast. It’s one of the kindest gifts of friendship I’ve ever received. We knew nothing about Lucia prior to that magical morning, but our friends sat and told her stories and their stories of celebrating Lucia with their kids when they were small.

By the next Christmas we had a rosy-cheeked blue-eyed baby girl who looked like she’d be a blondie if she ever got hair. (She’s one-quarter Swedish, to boot!) And it came to pass. She’s thirteen now, and has a full head of still-blonde hair. She’s been Lucy on December 13th for the last ten years. She takes very seriously the bringing of  light and song and Lucy cookies and treats to her family and friends.

When she was in second grade, her school did a unit on all the festivals of light that occur in and around December—Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa etc. and my girl volunteered me to come teach about Lucia.

bk_Lucia

written by Ewa Rydåker,
illus. by Carina Ståhlberg

So I did a little research, wrote new English words to the traditional Swedish song, bought a lot of Annas Swedish Wish Cookies, and went to my local Swedish Institute (we have such things in Minnesota) to see if there was a book I might read. Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydåker fit the bill.

Class after class was rapt as the story of one modern Swedish family’s Lucia Day preparations was read. The kids loved it. They sang the song lustily, ate their cookies and made their wishes (one for themselves and one for someone else, in homage to Lucia who brought light and love to others), and asked many many questions of Lucia’s death, sainthood, and her many December celebrations around the world. They were utterly fascinated with the crown of candles and only the lice epidemic the school was experiencing that year (there’s always something) prevented us from having each and every child try the crown on.

gr_luciaIn researching the history and surrounding myths of Lucia, I learned that Sweden is not the only country to claim Lucy. There’s an Italian part of the story—which led me to announce that some Lucias have blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin, while other have black hair, dark eyes, and brown skin. Suddenly the entire second grade felt free to be Lucia or one of her star boys.

Six years later, I still occasionally run into a teenager who says, “Hey—you brought us those wish cookies and taught us about Lucia when we were little! I loved that book!”

The memory of taking the St. Lucia celebration to the second grade warms my heart each year in December. My own Lucy needs little help with preparations any more. Indeed, she told me she’d be my alarm clock this year and bring me lussekatter and coffee in bed on Sunday.

This leads me to think my work here is about done.

8 Responses to Red Reading Boots: Lucia Morning in Sweden

  1. tuniemb December 10, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    Happy memories here, too, though I never thought of reaching out to neighbors or friends at the early hour. We also left rice porridge out for the tomten… some of it always gone by morning!
    Tunie Munson-Benson

    • Melanie December 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

      Must include the tomtens…maybe for my (long ways off) grandchildren!

  2. Cathy Ballou Mealey December 10, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    Such a sweet story! Would not be Christmas without a giant batch of Peppakakkor and Lusseballar!

    • Melanie December 11, 2015 at 7:47 am #

      I agree completely, Cathy–and I have not a drop of Scandinavian blood in me! Married in!

  3. Nicolette Petroff Strandskov December 11, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    Hi Melanie, pleased to find your essay highlighted by A Mighty Girl! Happy Lucia Day! — Nikki Strandskov

    • Melanie December 12, 2015 at 8:02 am #

      Merry Christmas, Nikki!

  4. Nicolette Petroff Strandskov December 11, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    Oops, it was Winding Oak….not A Mighty Girl, but they should have this too!

    • Melanie December 12, 2015 at 8:02 am #

      Ha! Two great sources!

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