Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Johansson Family Christmas Tradition

   In my family growing up, we celebrated Santa Lucia Day.  My father was from Sweden and we had visited there many times, so taking on this tradition was something we did to honor my father and the "old country" he missed, and it made for some really fun memories that I am now continuing with my own children.
   When I was a girl, on December the 13th I would wake up early with my mother and I would put on a long white dress or nightgown and put a wreath with five candles on my head.  We would wake up my brothers and dress them in white and put a tall pointed hat on their heads with gold stars and give them a long stick to hold with a big gold star on the end....they were the "Star Boys" that would walk along side Santa ("Santa" means "Saint" in Swedish) Lucia to help guide her way as she brought coffee and "Lucia rolls" to the father of the household to wake him.  
   There are many stories of the Saint Lucia and they differ depending on which country in Europe you are celebrating the holiday in.  The story we grew up with was that Santa Lucia was a young Christian woman who was promised in marriage to an evil man.  She pleaded with her family to release her from the engagement and instead give her the dowry to give to the poor and suffering Christians who were under persecution at that time.  Her wish was granted and the story goes that Lucia gave all she had to the poor and would sneak through the tunnels of the city late at night bringing food and drink to the persecuted.  Because she needed light but was using her hands to carry her gifts, she would put candles on her head to light her way.  The story ends with Lucia being found out and burned at the stake but, some stories say that God saved her from the flames so her enemies killed her by the sword.
   So throughout Europe today many countries celebrate and remember the beautiful young martyr with ceremonies in churches, homes, nursing homes and even schools.  
   So now that I have my own children, we have taken this special holiday and put a little twist on it... On every December 13th, we gather with family and friends in the evening and have a Swedish meal of potatoes, Lingon berry preserves, Swedish meatballs, a traditional mustard coated ham, sparkling pear cider, Swedish open faced sandwiches, special ginger cookies, and of course, coffee!  After the dinner, all the children run upstairs to change into their clothes and the adults wait excitedly downstairs for their arrival.  
   Once all the little girls are dressed in their white gowns and the little boys in their Star boy hats and stars, we wait for the eldest girl to lead us all as Santa Lucia.  My daughter has been Santa Lucia for the past several years now...she wears a simple long white gown...simple to represent that Lucia gave up her riches to give to the poor, white to symbolize Lucia's purity.   Then we put a beautiful long deep red sash around her waist to represent the blood Lucia shed, the lights are turned down as we put the beautiful wreath of candles on her head to light her way, the little children follow behind her: Star boys and Lucia Maidens to help Lucia in her quest to reach the poor.  As the children descend the stairs with their candles and baskets of Lucia rolls and ginger cookies, the beautiful song " Santa Lucia " is sung by my younger sister.  Everyone downstairs is thrilled to see the adorable children come down and walk around handing out rolls and cookies to everyone in the room.  
   The story of Santa Lucia is read and everyone enjoys the treats and visiting and taking pictures of the children.  This has been such a highly anticipated event that I have people asking me through out the year if we will do it again next year and can they please come!  Aren't traditions fun to pass down?!

(Thank you, Brianna, for your wonderful story.  And you, Veronica, for permission to use your lovely paper doll.  You can find her work at

No comments: