The green table is moving! I'll begin posting again after we're all set up in our new home!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Celebrating St. Lucia Day

my St. Lucia, 2 years old

My daughter, Adelae, doesn't have a real "name day" like Andy, Pete and I do.  Her name isn't Biblical, and while the Roman Catholic church does have a St. Adela (and St. Adela is actually a distant relative on my Dad's (Bonnough) side of the family!), I didn't even know about her until after we'd named our daughter, and she's not among those "cloud of witnesses" commemorated on the Lutheran calendar.  Instead, we've adopted St. Lucia for Adelae's friend in the faith.  Not only is St. Lucia Day is closest to Adelae's birthday, but she also has a fascinating story - one I'd like my little girl to keep with her as she grows and her faith is challenged.  Celebrating St. Lucia Day on December 13th has become a treasured tradition in our family, but you don't have to designate it an adopted name day to celebrate it in your home too!
my St. Lucia, 3 years old

my St. Lucia, 4 years old

First, a little about Lucia.  Maybe you know her best from the American Girl books.  That's how I first met St. Lucia, and I'm certain it never crossed my mind as a child that my Kirsten doll was Lutheran too!  If you look at the sweet pictures of girls dressed as St. Lucia, wearing a long white gown with a red sash and wearing a crown, almost like an Advent wreath, with candles aflame, carrying a tray of saffron buns, you'd never suspect the gruesome details of her story.  In fact, Lucia's story is so disturbing, that I don't even share it with my daughter yet.  Once she's older, I'm certain her story will have a dramatic impact on Adelae as it has on me.  
Kirsten - American Girl Doll

Lucia was a young girl in Sicily around 300AD, when Christianity was illegal.  Still, Lucia believed in the one true God, and when betrothed to marry a man who was not a Christian, she refused to marry him.  In vengeance, or perhaps for money, he reported Lucia to the government as a Christian.  She was suppose to be executed, but when the Roman officials came to take her away she became immovable, like stone.  They tried to light her on fire, but she would not burn.  Finally, they gouged her eyes out.  Her iconography is is often shown holding eyeballs, and yes, that is why her saffron rolls have a single raisin in the center - to resemble eyeballs. 

Prayer in Honor of Saint Lucy Prayer Card

Some try to connect the light (or, luc-, lux-) of St. Lucia day to the Winter Solstice, but I see her candles in the darkness as a remembrance of her torturous martyrdom; Lucia proclaimed the Light of the World, even while she was set aflame, though not consumed.  Her white gown reminds us of the virginal purity she wished to preserve, and the red sash of a martyr's blood.   

We celebrate St. Lucia Day by adding our own twist to the historic traditions.  Instead of telling Adelae all of the details of Lucia's woes, we start by getting out my old Kirsten doll, and dressing her in her St. Lucia gown and wreath.  I simplify the real Lucia story, explaining that Lucia wears a crown with candles because she wanted to tell everyone about the Light of the World, Jesus, who comes on Christmas to take away the darkness of our sin. 
On December 12 Adelae will wear her white nightgown to bed.  I'm fortunate to have a mother who is a seamstress and able to whip a new nighty together for us every couple years, but even an over sized white shirt would serve well.  
We wake up early in the morning on December 13, and before it's light outside, tie a red ribbon around her waist and turn on the battery operated candles attached to her wreath crown.  Next, we make a simple breakfast, load it on a tray and take it in to Daddy, then all enjoy breakfast in bed!  I'm pretty sure the "breakfast in bed" bit isn't part of the original tradition, but I love it!  After the picnic in pajamas is over, just strip the bed - you'll need fresh sheets!

before sunrise on St. Lucia Day, wearing her new white nightgown!

Making a St. Lucia crown is simple, it's balancing it on your that head takes effort!  All you'll need is inexpensive wired greens (I got mine from the Dollar Tree), four clip on battery operated candles, a pair of wire cutters, and four lengths of red ribbon, each about 16" long. Also you might want a cord to tie around the top of the wreath and under your child's chin for secure balance!
Measure the greens around your little girl's head. You don't want the circlet to be tight.
Wrap the wired greens around it's self to connect a circle, then approximate the length needed to wrap around the entire circle again, and snip with wire cutters.  Weave the greens around your original circle so the wreath has two layers of wired greens. 
Clip the candles onto the greens, making sure to set all four are placed equidistant around the circle so the crown balances. To secure the candles upright and add a little decoration, next wrap a ribbon around each candle.  Start with the center of the ribbon behind the candle, and bring both ends forward.
Push the ribbon under the greens and up behind the candle, then tie the ribbon together in a knot in front of the candle.  Adelae wanted knots, but bows may also be nice; just make sure to double the length of each ribbon if you plan to tie bows.
By the way, if you look at pictures from the past years, our candles were just those little votive sized candles glued onto a wired wreath.  If you can't find the taller clip on candles, or if you're making the crown for a very young girl, these small candles work nicely, and they're a lot easier to balance!

Adelae's early morning Lucia Day tray, almost entirely set out by herself!
 Saffron buns (Lussekatter) are the traditional breakfast treat of the day, but with all of the craziness amidst what is suppose to be the more subdued season of Advent, this year we'll once again just make toast, coffee, and peel some clementines.  I do like to buy a special breakfast bread for the occasion, and for a Scandinavian touch we serve the toast with lingonberry jam.  Also, we recently learned that it was common to serve cookies for breakfast too, so of course the idea of eating cookies - in bed - for breakfast - is just about the most exciting prospect ever for little Miss Adelae! If we lived closer to an Ikea, I'd definitely pick up a few more Scandinavian treats too!

If any of you, dear readers, make some special St. Lucy Buns and would like to share the recipe, it's something we'd enjoy conquering some year!  I have a few recipes, but none that are of the tried and true family record variety!

I hope you enjoy a simple St. Lucia Day celebration with your family! 

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