Small Hands in the Big World

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Santa Lucia

It is one thing to read about holiday traditions from other cultures but it’s altogether another thing to witness it first-hand. We had the pleasure of celebrating the day of Santa Lucia with Swedish friends last week and it was absolutely lovely.

In honor of Saint Lucy, Christians in Scandinavian and some European countries mark the passing of this martyr that lost her eyes and her life for proclaiming her faith in God back in the 300s.  The tradition is that one young woman is chosen to lead a procession of girls. They all wear white gowns and carry a candle but the girl in the lead also wears a red sash and crown of candles.

Our friends with girls ages 2 and 5 decided to forego the candle crown but much to her parents’ displeasure, the eldest daughter insisted on wearing her special Santa Lucia pure white cotton gown to our house for a play date before the party. I promised to not break out the paints that day. She practiced her song all afternoon—I still have it in my head, too bad it’s in Swedish or Italian (sad that I don't know, I'll have to ask their Mom) or I could really get into it. Anyhow, all of her crooning led to everyone finding their favorite instruments and we had a great jam session complete with a stage made from step stools, percussion, strings, and woodwinds (or are they called plastic-winds when it’s the slider flutes and old fashioned recorders)?
Helping Sara with the words

Sara on vocals, "lukealeylee," and jazzy dance moves
Later that evening we enjoyed snacks, spicy sweet warm Glögg, and a traditional cinnamon rice porridge beside our friends’ roaring fireplace. The lights were dimmed for their eldest daughter to come out carrying a lit candle and sing the traditional songs of a Swedish Santa Lucia celebration. Her younger sister stood close by, witnessing the ritual and watching with awe. All the kids (varying in ages from 1 to 8) sat quietly, mesmerized by the heartfelt performance, the candle’s flame and the thrill of something ancient and special.

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