Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Santa Lucia Day

My writing time dwindles, like the leaking of the light out of our days this time of year. If only I could stay home to listen to the howling wind, while baking holiday breads and contemplating the traditions of various people. I suppose I should be careful what I wish for: plenty of people are home in their chilly houses because they've lost their jobs. So, off I go to work, to finish the annual reviews of several employees, so that they get their pay adjustments in time. There's an honor to that, right? A different kind of holiday festiveness? I'm no Ebeneezer Scrooge of a boss! In fact, if I was the one in charge of the holiday schedule, we'd have many more days off: Santa Lucia Day, Diwali (all 5 days!), Hanukkah (all 8 days!), . . . well, you can see why I'm not the one in charge of holidays.

So, instead of writing a new post, let me repost what I wrote on my theology blog a year ago.

Today is the day that Scandinavian countries celebrate Santa Lucia day, or St. Lucy's day. There will be special breads and hot coffee and perhaps a candle wreath for the head. Many churches, particularly Lutheran churches, will do something special today.

I first heard about St. Lucia Day at our Lutheran church in Charlottesville, Virginia. As the tallest blonde girl, I was selected to lead the St. Lucia day procession when I was in my early teen years. The grown ups placed a wreath with candles on my head and lit the candles. The younger children carried their candles. I walked up the church aisle and held my head very still. I still remember the exhilarating feeling of having burning candles near my hair. I remember hot wax dripping onto my shoulders--I was wearing clothes and a white robe over them, so it didn't hurt.

It felt both pagan and sacred, that darkened church, our glowing candles. I remember nothing about the service that followed.

A year or two later, Bon Appetit ran a cover story on holiday breads, and Santa Lucia bread was the first one that I tried. What a treat. For years, I told myself that baking holiday breads was a healthy alternative to baking Christmas cookies--but then I took a long, hard look at the butterfat content of each, and decided that I was likely wrong.

I love our various festivals to get us through the dark of winter. When I lived in colder, darker places, I wished that the early church fathers had put Christmas further into winter, when I needed a break. Christmas in February makes more sense to me, even though I understand how Christmas ended up near the Winter Solstice.

So, happy Santa Lucia day! Have some special bread, drink a bracing hot beverage, and light the candles against the darkness.


Kathleen said...

Candles in hair is what freaks me out about this holiday, beautiful as they are. I love the word "butterfat," partly because the word is not bad for us.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Butterfat, in moderation, isn't terrible for us--and makes life more delicious.

Ah, but moderation, that's the tricky bit! Off to enjoy some eggnog!