(aka. that Swedish girl with the candles on her head who brings cookies)
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I went to Bethel College (now University) in St. Paul, Minnesota–a school with roots in the Swedish Baptist movement in a state where Scandinavian Lutherans are as common as, well…they’re common. Add to that the fact that I was born in a Swedish-dominate community in North Dakota and spent a significant part of my growing-up years with Swedes as friends of influence and you’ll know why I hold some aspects of this culture as my own. We always had pickled herring in the house over Christmas for my uncle, Elmer Johnson. I thought baked goods all had the flavors of cardamom and fennel until we moved away from the Scandinavian influences I’d long enjoyed.
Anyhow, to the point…
When I was in the Women’s Choir at Bethel I learned a bit about Santa Lucia (St. Lucy’s Day) — December 13 — when we decided to celebrate it. My memory tells me that my friend Tammy wore the cool multi-candle crown/wreath thing and we wore white robes (over our winter wear) and took cookies and cocoa and songs to people in the campus housing early in the morning.
I don’t remember details, really. But I do remember the song:
“Santa Lucia, thy light is glowing
Through darkest winter night,
Dreams float on dreams tonight
Comes then the morning light,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia”
I did some quick research this morning (thanks to the Google) and confirmed that this holiday has roots in traditional celebrations around the winter solstice, involves what was an Sicily born Saint (Lucy) and is generally a Scandinavian deal. Some of northern-most eastern European countries also have a version of this deal. I have to wonder if they celebrate this in Port St. Lucy here in Florida — but that will have to be a rabbit trail for another morning.
I was at IKEA yesterday and picked up some traditional Swedish cookies — Anna’s Ginger Thins and Almond Cinnamon Thins. I’ll put them on a plate and might even light a candle and share a very convoluted version of this celebration with my colleagues at the office today. I won’t wear the candle hat — primarily because I don’t have mine any more. I really did used to have one that was battery-operated.
I’m not Scandinavian myself, but I feel a bit Swedish by osmosis or transfusion.