Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sankta Lucia Day ~ A Celebration of Light in Scandinavia

I forgot that today is Sankta Lucia Day in Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries. Thank you fishducky for your Hanukkah post, which reminded me. I'm glad because I like to remember the traditions I grew up with.

This is what I posted back in 2014: 

Many of you have read my Sankta Lucia posts in prior years. This time, I decided to combine the 2012 and 2013 posts and add some background to the Sankta Lucia customs in Sweden. If you read this for the first time, I hope you will enjoy learning about Saint Lucy and the tradition of the Festival of Light celebrations held in Sweden on her Saint's Day. 

Me as Sankta Lucia in the 1940s

Throughout history, people in the Nordic countries have celebrated light in the dark and cold of the approaching winter solstice. 

In the old calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year. It was also the most dangerous. A night when animals could speak and fairies, trolls, and giants roamed the forests. In the countryside, young people would dress up in costumes and go from house to house, singing songs, eating and drinking with their neighbors. The custom of a Lucia dressed in white was first recorded in 1764, but didn't become popular until the 19th century. 

This old tradition continues today. On December 13, Sankta Lucia Day is celebrated in Sweden with festivals of light across the country. And, at the darkest time of year, people are reminded that our earth will soon begin to turn toward the light of spring.

According to tradition, the eldest daughter in the family, wearing a white dress with a red sash and a crown of candles, brings coffee and Lucia buns (lussekatter) to her parents in bed. 

Yes, that's me as Sankta Lucia with a crown of real candles on my head! (I did have a wet napkin on my hair, underneath the crown.) The girl and her court of younger siblings sing the old Neapolitan song Sankta Lucia in a translation that celebrates light coming to this dark season. This tradition continues in Swedish homes today, but with battery operated candles, I'm sure.

Lucia buns

Sankta Lucia is crowned in schools, churches, and communities all over Sweden and processions are held with the Queen of Light leading her court. Everyone holds candles and sings the Sankta Lucia song.  

Source: Google Images

Sankta Lucia, or Saint Lucy, was a Sicilian woman who was martyred in the year 304 AD. A common story suggests that she would secretly bring food to persecuted Christians who lived in the catacombs of Rome and, in order to keep her hands free, she wore a crown of candles on her head. Another legend tells us that she consecrated her virginity to God through pious works. After she refused to marry her betrothed, a pagan man, he became infuriated and reported her to the authorities. When guards came to arrest her, she was so filled with the Holy Spirit that they couldn't move her, even with a team of oxen. The guards then gathered materials around her and set them on fire, but she didn't burn. In medieval accounts, Saint Lucy's eyes are gouged prior to her execution and she is often depicted in art carrying her eyes on a tray.

Saint Lucy, by Domenico Beccafumi, in a 1521 recasting of an iconic Gothic image. It was said that Saint Lucy was tortured with eye gouging, hence this rather disturbing image. The picture, as well as some of the history of Saint Lucy, are courtesy Wikipedia. 

Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. Her name is derived from Lux, Latin for light, and she is presented with light in art and literature.  Saint Lucy is one of only seven women, aside from the Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass


A Note:

The coffee cups I carry in the second picture above, belonged to my maternal grandmother and they now have a home here with me.

My maternal grandmother

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Day Out With Friends

and how I needed it after staying home with this stubborn cold for over two weeks. 

Rachael came up and I wanted her to meet my neighbor, Joyce. They are closer in age than I'm to either of them, they are also two of the kindest people I know. Both care for animals, large and small, and do so with a lot of patience and love. 

Rachael and Joyce in the nuns' garden.

We drove up the mountain to visit with sister Mary Magdalene in the nuns' giftshop. Rachael brought some of her homemade, delicious peanut brittle as a gift for the sisters.

And all three of us bought some of their home made soaps, preserves, and other things that make such great stocking stuffer gifts for friends. 

I had to take a picture of the nuns' goats before we left. 

Then we were off to town to have lunch and, after that, it was time for some thrift store therapy. 

Joyce knew of a store that Rachael and I had not yet discovered, so we visited it, then the one that benefits our local hospital, and finally, St. Vincent du Paul, which will close at the end of the month. I picked up this pitcher and some other things I don't need. I love the colors in the pitcher and also that I now love to be surrounded by colors. I didn't always like strong colors the way I do now. 

I took this picture just to document that my tree  only began to lose it's leaves in December. Very late, it seems to me. And also that it did so well this year. All that rain we had helped everything grow. This tree is actually dead, the things that grow are the suckers, I think they are called, which normally you would get rid of, but they are now making a tree of their own. Nature is pretty wonderful, don't you think?

The fires are still going on, of course. The city of Ojai appears to have been saved, with the surrounding foothills getting the brunt of the fire with homes lost. It seems unbelievable that the largest fire is headed toward Santa Barbara. That's quite a distance from where it started.

I appreciate your kind comments and thoughts. I've been getting emails from friends and family in Sweden, worried about where I am in relation to the fires. Not close, don't even smell any smoke, so we are good here. 

My only problem is my cold, which has taken a lot of strength from me. I'm better, but not yet well. But the last time I had one was in 2011, so I shouldn't complain. Will begin walking the dogs soon and that should help to build my energy up again. 


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