Celebrate St. Lucia's Day, tap into tradition
Growing up, I was a huge fan of the American Girls -- particularly the book series. My favorite from the Kirsten collection was "Kirsten's Surprise," which tells of the Swedish family's first winter in Minnesota -- 1854 -- and their struggle to preserve Christmas traditions from home in a foreign place.
Thirty-something moms, does this book cover ring a bell?
The book is full of beautiful illustrations showing Kirsten in Minnesota.
I remember studying her very cool braids (and her mother's) and considering them unattainable.
And then came her radiant moment as St. Lucia.
St. Lucia's Day (also known as St. Lucy's Day) falls on Dec. 13. It commemorates a third-century marytry who, according to legend, brought "food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs" using a candle-lit wreath to "light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible."
The feast once coincided with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, leading it to be considered a festival of light.
St. Lucia's Day is most commonly celebrated in Scandinavia, representing a major feast day amid their long, dark winters. There, she is represented as a girl in a white dress and red sash with a wreath of candles on her head. Girls dress as St. Lucia and carry rolls in a musical procession. To celebrate St. Lucia's Day, it is believed, will help one endure the dark winter days with enough light.
You don't have to be Catholic to celebrate St. Lucia's Day. It's a chance for any family to celebrate the season in a non-commercial way, casting your thoughts toward neighbors in need.
Now that my oldest is 3, she seemed ready to re-enact St. Lucia's Day in simple terms (minus the martyr part).
I told Maria the story of a brave and generous girl who baked delicious cinnamon rolls and shared food with those in need. Then I dressed her as St. Lucia and let her process down the stairs, waking her younger sister to share our gooey, gourmet Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.
Maria wore a gorgeous handmade peasant dress from the Etsy shop Shelby Jane & Co. It comes in white or ivory, plain cotton or with a lace overlay. (And check out the other adorable dresses there too!)
I love the neckline, the puffed sleeves and the simplicity of the gown. Only recently, going on my fourth year as a mom of girls, have I come to recognize the understated beauty of a white dress. There's a reason Fraulein Maria cited "girls in white dresses" as one of her favorite things in The Sound of Music.
We used fake candles from The Dollar Tree for effect and opted to frame them around the tray rather than the crown. And yes, we tried to imitate Kirsten's braids.
Maria's wreath was centered on an exquisite berry crown crafted by an Etsy artist named Nataliya Businka. It is similar to this one (for $30) and this one (on sale for $22.50) -- the most realistic-looking berries you'll ever see. Dainty, vintage and enchanting in any season. (Imagine it in a Christmas newborn photo or an autumn image of a young explorer in the woods.)
Nataliya's berry crown made a secure base onto which I tied trimmings from our Christmas tree. Easy peasy! And it smelled great.
This spring I discovered the joys of homemade flower crowns, and I have long wondered about their less-common winter counterpart, which may possess more quiet, dainty beauty. I'm so glad I tried my hand at it!
If you assemble some kind of berry or frasier wreath for your daughter this Christmas -- however simple, just working with backyard scrappings or Christmas-tree trimmings -- I think you'll be delighted by the result. Be sure to grab the camera!
Once we'd enjoyed our cinnamon rolls and washed our sticky fingers, the girls and I dropped off a small bag of groceries at a random home in an apartment complex in town. I let Maria pick an apartment, and we hung the bag on the front door then darted back in the car, delighting in our "sneaky" ways, as she put it.
And that was that. A successful first St. Lucia's Day celebration as a mom.
Simple. Fun. And hopefully a memorable conversation about giving and gratitude, themes that can be hard for little ones to grasp as they construct their Christmas wish lists.
Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and two young girls (and another baby on the way!) in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charmed reviews are entirely the author's opinion. Special thanks to the following vendors for supplying complimentary samples for review and photography: