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,

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