Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy St. Lucia's Day!

Today (December 13) is St. Lucia's Day! This feast was originally established to remember a Christian Martyr named Lucy who was persecuted and killed during the reign of Diocletian. This feast day is especially celebrated in Scandinavian countries with some nice traditions and in Syracuse (Sicily) where she was born.

There is alot of information on the internet and in books about St. Lucia and her feast day. I can't begin to cover it all in this article, so I thought I would highlight a few items and give you some ideas on how to celebrate this "feast of light" with your family.

In Sicily, torchlight processions and bonfires mark her day. The special food for the day is cuccia. Cuccia is made of wheat grains that are soaked, cooked and then eaten like oatmeal. It can be eaten any time of the day. Here are some recipes for cuccia:
(This one mentions it as a dessert.)
(This one is called a soup -- has fava beans in it)

Northeastern Italy (especially Lombardy and Verona)
On the eve of December 13 St. Lucia travels on a flying donkey to deliver gifts to good boys and girls. The children leave carrots and hay to attract the hungry donkey so it stops at their home.

This is one of the favored holidays in Scandinavia. One of the daughters in the family brings coffee and lussekatter, or saffron rolls, to her parents in the early hours of the morning. She is wearing a white gown, a candle-wreath crown on her head and singing a special song for St. Lucia.

Throughout the day, there are also public processions in many Swedish cities, where one girl is selected to be St. Lucia. She goes to malls, nursing homes, churches and other places singing songs and handing out lussekatter or ginger snaps. She is sometimes accompanied by the Star Boy, a young boy also dressed in white, wearing a white cone-shaped hat with stars on it, and carrying a star-shaped wand.

Some ways to celebrate this holiday:
In our home, my husband is always up earlier than everyone, so there is no opportunity to surprise him with breakfast in bed. Instead, my daughter will surprise him after supper with a dessert of lussekatter. (We will turn off all the lights and she will process into the dining room carrying the lussekatter and wearing a simple white dress and her candle-wreath crown.) (Her crown is made of battery operated candles.)

During the day, we will also be doing some Scandinavian type crafts, learning to sing the St. Lucia song, and reading some books and articles about St. Lucia.

There are many articles about her on the internet. Here are just a few links:

Some craft ideas for this day:

Make a St. Lucia wreath:

Another wreath craft:

Make the Star Boy's cone-shaped hat:

Make small St. Lucia dolls out of clothespins:

St. Lucia Coloring Sheets:

Woven Swedish Heart Ornament
(Instead of the pinks and reds listed in this article, make it with red and green construction paper. Fill it with holiday candies and hide it in the tree for the children to find!)

Make a Dala Horse Puppet

Make a special centerpiece for your table, using an evergreen wreath and white candles. Or use one of the wreaths in the craft projects listed above.

Some recipes:

St. Lucia's Breaded Bread (from Family Fun magazine)

A more traditional recipe. Note the interesting shapes in which to shape the rolls:

Gingerbread cookie (Luciapepparkak) recipe

Glogg (Swedish Mulled Wine)

Some favorite books:

How to Make a Swedish Christmas

Lucia Morning in Sweden

Here is a link to the song traditionally sung on St. Lucia's Day. It includes lyrics in English and Swedish, sheet music for the song, and a midi recording:

More resources and blog articles on celebrating St. Lucia's Day:

Happy celebrating this feast of light!

Creatively yours,

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A review: My Twinn Dolls

As promised, this blog (and the website at will occasionally include reviews of great gift items. Today I would like to tell you about the My Twinn Dolls.

Like many families, we will be cutting back on gifts this Christmas. My husband and I decided to get one main gift for each child -- something they can keep and cherish. For our daughter, we have purchased a My Twinn Doll.

My Twinn dolls are personalized to look just like the child who receives them. Same color hair and eyes, same hair style, same complexion, etc. They will even add birthmarks, freckles and other customized features.

We just received my daughter's doll, and I was pleased with the likeness to my daughter. Granted, they can't make the doll to look exactly like her, but it does bear an uncanny resemblance to her. I think I even seem my daughter's mischievous glint in the doll's eyes!

A few specifics about the doll: It is 23" tall and has 18 points of poseability for more lifelike movement. In other words, it can be posed in many ways; it can even do the splits! The doll is made with high-quality vinyl using natural-looking skin tones, eye color and hairstyles. The vinyl can be cleaned with a warm washcloth or baby wipe. Each doll is crafted to the specifications you indicate on the order form on their website.

The My Twinn website also sells matching doll/girl outfits and pajamas, doll accessories, doll-sized furniture and more. Some of this can get a bit pricey, but I've found some deals on Ebay. I will probably get out my sewing machine and do a bit of sewing, too. (The sewing machine is begging me to use it again!)

The dolls are not inexpensive, but they are made very well and considered heirloom quality. Yet they are durable enough to be played with on a daily basis by a little girl.

I decided to go with a My Twinn doll (instead of the better known "American Girl" dolls) for several reasons. I thought it would be nice for my daughter to have a doll that looked like her. In addition, throughout the years, I plan to write some stories for my daughter, featuring her doll in various adventures. I also thought that the stories behind the American Girl dolls would be a bit too complex for a 6-year-old to understand.

If you would like more information on My Twinn dolls, check out their website by clicking on this link: (eToys Direct, Inc.)

St. Nicholas Eve in Holland, Michigan

Hi everyone,

Back from Holland, Michigan! Thought you would like a brief report.

St. Nicholas (also known as Sinter Klaas), rode into town on Friday evening. He was on a white horse, accompanied by his helpers, who are named "Black Peter." He rode down the main street in Holland, accompanied by a large group of children carrying lighted paper lanterns. In front of the parade was a town crier telling everyone that Sinter Klaas was coming! He rode down the whole street (which was lined with people on both sides) and greeting children. The parade ended at the end of the street, where there is a summer outdoor market (that is now a holiday market called Kerstmarket--similar to the markets held in Germany.)

At the market, there was a little stage set up, and the children who were carrying lanterns got up on the stage and sang songs to welcome Sinter Klaas. Then the mayor of Holland welcomed Sinter Klaas. The Black Peters were walking around the group, giving lollipops to the kids. (My kids were delighted with this, as they think that Black Peter only gives out coal and switches!)

Sinter Klaas said hello to everyone and wished them a wonderful holiday season, and then kids could come up to him, talk to him and have their photos taken with him. Got a great shot of my son and daughter with Sinter Klaas!

We hoped to visit some museums and go the Sinter Klaas story time on Saturday, but awoke that morning to discover that they were predicting a snowstorm during the day, with up to 8 inches of snow! So we left in the morning. I've promised the kids we will go back in the spring for Tulip Time.

It was a nice trip, even if it was short!

Friday, December 5, 2008

There's quite a bit of excitement around my house

Because tonight is St. Nicholas Eve! In our home, we celebrate St. Nicholas Eve, which is a custom that originated in Europe. (St. Nicholas is the predecessor of our modern Santa Claus.) St. Nicholas was a 3rd century bishop known for his kindness and generosity. It is said that his red miter and red robes eventually evolved into the stocking cap and long red coat worn by Santa, and his deeds were the impetus for the kindness associated with Santa.

In Europe, the children put out their shoes on St. Nicholas Eve. The next morning, they wake up to find little treats and goodies in them, and often a letter from St. Nicholas praising them for their good works throughout the year, and encouraging them to improve in their weaknesses.

St. Nicholas is especially popular in the Netherlands. He's known as Sinter Klaas there. He is accompanied by a little elf known as Zwiet Piet (Black Peter) (who hands out coal and switches to children who haven't been good.)

My two kids don't know it, but we are driving over to Holland, Michigan this afternoon (about a 3-4 hour drive). Holland has a little celebration on St. Nicholas Eve. St. Nicholas rides into town on his white horse, accompanied by Zwiet Piet, to start off the holiday celebrations. They also have story time with St. Nicholas at one of the stores in town, and other holiday events and happenings. So I've decided to surprise them with a visit to see St. Nicholas!

They are a bit worried that St. Nicholas won't find them at the hotel where we are staying, but I've assured them that this is "no problem." So they will put out their shoes tonight in the hotel.

Traditionally, St. Nicholas gives little sweets and treats to the kids (not big presents). Each item has some significance. Some treats may include:

- candy cane (represents the bishop's miter and also a "J" upside down)
- bag of gold chocolate coins (he is known for giving a bag of coins to a poor family)
- a book or DVD on St. Nicholas (the bishop, not Santa Claus)
- a St. Nicholas cookie or treat (I make them myself)
- a St. Nicholas ornament or icon
- a homemade gift or game

You can find a ton of terrific resources and information, including some "shoe stuffer" downloads, at this website:

Creatively yours,