Santa Lucia 2008

Santa Lucia - Cocoa and Lussekatter

Santa Lucia is a difficult holiday to photograph.  Because the main festivities happen in the pre-dawn hours of northern Europe (primarily Sweden) on December 13th — and because it’s celebrated primarily by twinkly candle-light and such — there’s never enough available light to really capture a good photograph of how it really feels to experience a Santa Lucia morning (and trying to use a flash on the camera just destroys the illusion completely).  Photographs are always overexposed or underexposed or blurred…

That being said, I really like the above photograph that Marci captured — albeit a little bit blurred — of Elliot carrying our mugs of hot cocoa and Olivia carrying the plate full of Lussekatter (saffron-flavored breaded pastries), sillhouetted by the kitchen light as they turn the corner to deliver the traditional Santa Lucia treats to me in bed (the old tradition of the "man-of-the-house" being served breakfast in bed is definitely a highlight of this particular holiday!).

Santa Lucia - Starboy ApprenticeSanta Lucia has become a very special tradition in our home.  Nevermind that it’s a Swedish celebration, even though Marci and I are both third- and fourth-generation Americans currently living in the Netherlnads!  Both of our families share a Scandinavian heritage (which seemed to be the more dominant ethnic identity in our families), and as such the holiday is a very meaningful tradition that we’ve developed through the years.   I did not celebrate Santa Lucia growing up, but Marci did — and I’m very glad that her family nurtured these traditions.

The holiday is primarily about special foods (namely the lussekatter) and special clothing traditions wherein the oldest girl of the house wears a white dress with a red sash around her waist and a crown of greenery and candles (ours are electric) while any other girls in the house wear similar clothing (excluding the crown) and all of the boys in the house wear vests and tall pointed hats to serve as Starboy.  In the early hours of the morning of December 13th, they prepare the lussekatter (which are usually baked the previous day) and serve them along with hot cocoa (I think the Swedes tend more toward coffee, but we’ve adapted to our household’s tastes, since I’m the only one who really like coffee) and then deliver them while singing special Swedish songs.  Then, after we’ve enjoyed some of the refreshments, we exchange small gifts which are laid out in our Christmas stockings (again, I don’t think people in Sweden actually do it this way, but it’s how we’ve adapted the holiday) and then sit around for the rest of the morning munching on more lussekatter and hot cocoa.  It’s very beautiful and very fun.

I don’t know of many other people (outside of Marci’s family) who celebrate Santa Lucia — but that’s kind of part of what makes it so special.  Back when there were just three of us here in Amsterdam (before Olivia or Cor were born), our family got a chance to travel to Stockholm (Sweden) for Santa Lucia — so we can confirm that it is a real holiday and not just something that we made up to be weird and "Swedish."  So I realize that you may not care so much to read about this holiday — still, we wish you a very wonderful Santa Lucia day today…

Santa Lucia - Santa Lucia and Star Boy

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