Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday - Santa Lucia

Today is a holiday in Sweden, as well as our household. Lina, our daughter, woke us up this morning with coffee and lussebullar in bed.

Santa Lucia is an Italian saint "adopted" by the Swedes.

Lucia was born in Sicily and burned at the stake by Romans in 304 A.D. for giving her entire dowry to the needy and for unwavering belief in Christ. She was blinded and burned, but the flames did not touch her, so she was stabbed in the heart. The red sash represents the wound

Legend has it that Santa Lucia appeared during a famine in Sweden in the middle ages carrying food to the farmers across a lake. She is also associated with light, one of the reasons it is celebrated during the darkest part of the year in Sweden.

Yesterday the local community of Swedes gathered up at a school to celebrate the holiday. We arrived at four in the afternoon to the sight of a sixteen foot tall Christmas tree in the middle of a large room. It was fully decorated. Nearby was a table adored with a red table cloth and servings of glogg. Our local Swede, Brith has become legendary for her mixture of the dreaded concoction. With a deceivingly good taste, this rather strongly fortified wine is gone withing the first half hour and the general mood of the crowd become quite joyous.

Soon afterward the children all dissapear and adorn themselves in white gowns with candles in their hands. The slowly walk back into the room singing and line themselves up on the stage for a candlelight collection of songs. The mood of the event is almost spiritually uplifting (remember what my religious level is.) Up lifting in the sense that everyone has a daughter or son in the gathering, haloed by candle light and singing away in harmony.

After this ceremony, the food is brought out. Plates of herring in a variety of mixtures, along with salmon and potatoes. Ham, Swedish meatballs and a form of small sausage is displayed elegantly on the table. A selection of breads, flat crackers and cheeses flank the sides of the red cloth covered tables. The line quickly grows to that of a half a block in length.

Troy, our local beer maker for the group has brought a few varieties of his holiday production along to help wash the dried throats of all the guests. The conversation level decreases as mouths are filled with food and ale. After a while the tables are cleared off and moved out of the way for the traditional dancing around the tree. Everyone forms a double ring around the tree holding hands. The smaller circle in the middle dances around one way and the outer ring supposedly in the opposite direction, at this point in time usually chaos occurs. For the children this is probable the funnest part of the evening, watching the parents hoping around in circles, bumping into each other.

The end of the evening is visited by Santa, another words, one of the parents volunteering to dole out the presents to expecting bright eyed children.

Our reward for sticking around to clean up was the sixteen foot high Christmas tree, which we tied on the roof of the car and slowly headed back down the canyon to out waiting porch. Today its my job to cut some off of the bottom so it will fit in the living room.

Richard Boyer

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