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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.

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tuniemb
tuniemb
6 years ago

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

Cathy Ballou Mealey
6 years ago

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

Nicolette Petroff Strandskov
6 years ago

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

Nicolette Petroff Strandskov
6 years ago

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

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