Sunday, November 26, 2006


The world has become a much smaller place since my childhood. When I was a four year old girl, I probably barely knew there was a Sweden. Not so my ever-so-curious first born child. When Senryu was 5, I read some of the American Girl books aloud to her. When we read about the character Kirsten, a Swedish Immigrant to America, Senryu became fascinated with the custom of the young girl in the household dressing as Santa Lucia. Not being of Swedish descent, this was a tradition I was only vaguely familiar with myself, so off to the library we trekked. That many years ago, the internet was not at my fingertips, so we researched things the old fashioned way.

We were able to find a few resources about Swedish holiday traditions and Senryu was eager to try everything. That year, we rolled out thin Swedish GingerSnaps, called Pepparkakor (recipe to follow in another post this week) and dressed an inexpensive craft store doll as Santa Lucia. Our girl is not carrying the traditional tray of goodies for her family, but she does wear a wreath of candles atop her head. I understand that modern girls general enact this custom with pretty battery operated candles, but our girl has a trio of white birthday candles in her grape-vine crown.

I love this description of the Santa Lucia custom which I read in Sage Cottage Herb Garden Cookbook, by Dorry Baird Norris:

Saint Lucy's Day - December 13

"In Sweden, at dawn on Saint Lucy's Day, the youngest daughter of the household, wearing a crown of bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) alight with candles, wakes her family with coffee and pastries as bright as her crown. A visit to the barn, with goodies for the farmhands and extra rations for the farm animals, is followed by a trip to church. There homage is paid to Saint Lucy, who brought sight to the blind and food to the hungry. Like her, the Lucibrud (Lucy Bride), wearing her glowing crown, brings light to the congregation, reminding them of the summer to come, of green growing things, and of plentiful food for all."

As a teen, I had a bevy of penpals across the globe, from England, France, Isreal, Italy, and even Sweden. I still have some of the letters that a curly-haired blond girl named Ulrika sent to me, with a list of words in Swedish for me to learn. I can still count to ten in Swedish, though I've never had an opportunity to learn whether my pronunciation is correct. I don't think she and I ever got around to discussing Christmas traditions, but I was glad to learn more about her culture all those years later, spurred on by my daughter's interest in the world outside of our cozy little house in the woods.

photos by Aisling, November 2006


Nan said...

Marcie, Are you familiar with the art of the Swedish artist, Carl Larsson? I have a wonderful book called The Paintings of Carl Larsson. You would love the celebration of home and family these paintings portray.

Aisling said...


I wasn't familiar with him, but looked him up after reading your comment. Really lovely.

I found this website:

Thanks for telling me about him. I will look for something on him at my library.