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.
feeling the feelings…
8 months ago