BHAY Blog #6: I Was a Toddler with a Tiara

Actually, I was a toddler (aged 2) with a straw-version of the Lucia crown, and my brother was a Star Boy in Sweden on December 13, 1962. My father looks a little dazed because my sister Anne was born early that October, giving my parents three children under the age of 4.

I celebrated my first Luciatag (Lucia Day) in 1962, wearing a straw Lucia crown. From the wave, I am giving the camera, I was clearly at home in the role. I was too young to take on the traditional duties of eldest daughter in the home on the day: bringing coffee and Lussekatter: rolls that taste deliciously of saffron and look like curled up cats, and have raisins as their eyes, to the parents, leading the other children in procession. The girl representing Saint Lucy would wear a crown of evergreens with lit candles in it ( we used plastic evergreens, and battery-operated candles ) and everyone would be singing. The boys would carry stars, and wear cones with stars on them on their heads; the other girls would wear wreaths of tinsel or leaves and carry candles. Except for the very youngest children, they would all be wearing long, white gowns. The tiniest ones would be brownies, aka tomtenissar. According to the website Sweden.se, the English translation of the song goes as follows: The night treads heavily
around yards and dwellings
In places unreached by sun,
the shadows brood
Into our dark house she comes,
bearing lighted candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

In my two years of public school in Sweden, we would have school-wide celebration of Sankta Lucia in the auditorium: in the evening, rather than pre-dawn, with all the girls and boys in procession, then lined up around the room, singing in the dark. It was quite lovely. But I don’t remember the words to that version of the song, the official version. I remember the playground version: Sankta Lucia, {lend me] en tio, med into en femma, det har ja hemma, Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia. Which loosely translated means, Saint Lucia, lend me a tenner, but not a fiver, that I have at home, Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

As I called up my childhood memories of Sankta Lucia, I had a hazy memory that the boys were not only star boys, but the eldest or older boys were St. Stephen as the older or eldest girl was St. Lucy. The first two websites I visited for confirmation did not mention it so I thought perhaps I was wrong. But then I found on wikipedia a reference to the fact that the boys would be dressed as star boys or as saints associated with Christmastide, such as St. Stephen. Vindication.

I also remember the story of Lucia being associated with her arriving on a ship during a time of trouble, wearing lights in her hair, and saving the people. Against, first three websites nothing, then on magical-europe.com, there was this reference: Swedish lore builds on the story of her death, telling the tale of a winter that brought terrible famine to Sweden. On the dark, bitter night of December 13th, a ship approached across Lake Vannern. The starving Swedes gathered on the shore to watch the ship approach and saw in the distance a woman dressed in white, standing at the helm, the light of the ship encircling her head with a gentle glow. Familiar with the Italian lore of Saint Lucia delivering food to the destitute Christians, the villagers believed she had come to rescue them from certain death. (ingebretsens.com). So again, I was right, I had heard a story about Saint Lucia bringing help on a ship.

The original St. Lucy is given credit for delivering food to the starving Christians hiding from persecution in the catacombs: she wore a wreath of candles so she could have light to see her way but also have her hands free to carry more food to the needy. She is also listed as a martyr for her faith. Her feast day was celebrated on December 13th, which on the Gregorian calendar was also the same day as the winter solstice. When the Julian calendar was implemented across most of Europe, the solstice was on December 21st but the feast of St. Lucy remained on the 13th.

I’m sharing all this information about Sankta Lucia with you for three reasons:

  1. It is another celebration of God’s light coming into dark times, this time bringing coffee, gingersnaps, and saffron rolls. God is good, and there is hope breaking through all around us and among us.
  2. What is said to children remains with them, on some level, and becomes a part of them. So, whenever possible, say good, kind, and interesting things to them, whether or not they are your biological children. All children need to hear good, kind, and interesting things.
  3. There is great power in sharing the story. I remember the folk lore story of Lucy on Lake Vannern, even though it’s only found now in a few places. I know it is true, even, as Max Lucado says, I’m not sure it happened that way. We are living in a time of confused and confusing accounts of reality, we are mistrusting facts and confusing lies with truth. We have access to an almost unimaginable amount of information, but not clear knowledge of the truth, nor the wisdom of how to use it. Stories help us process reality, to see the truth beyond the information, and show us which data to trust.

In these darkening days, as facts and figures are manipulated to create maximum confusion and minimal truth, may the story of a women who was willing to die to feed people who were starving because of a brutal government’s policies, give you light and hope, and perhaps saffron buns and gingersnaps.

Today’s Prayer Poem: by Par Lagerkvist, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951.

It is fairest in the gloaming air

(Det är vackrast när det skymmer)

It is fairest in the gloaming air.
All the love the heavens bare
is collected in a dusky light
above the earth,
above the city light.

All is love, caressed by hands.
The Lord himself will vanish distant strands.
All is near, all is far away.
All is given
man for today.

All is mine, and all shall be taken away from me,
within moments all shall be taken away from me.
The trees, the clouds, the earth I face.
I shall wander—
alone, without a trace.

Original by P. Lagerkvist, published in the collection Kaos, 1919.
English translation by P.O. Kristensson, 2011.

Grace, peace, and gingerbread,

Caroline

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