Monday, December 13, 2010

Celebrating Santa Lucia




Santa Lucia Day is on December 13th and celebrates the life of Saint Lucy and light for the longest night of the year (under the old Gregorian calendar this was the Winter Solstice). This day usually begins before dawn, the tradition is that the youngest girl in the family shall wake the others, walking from bedroom to bedroom singing a special Santa Lucia song and offering lucy cat  buns (also known as Lussekatter).

Our St. Lucy for today

This is a family tradition I remember with such fondness.... slowly waking up in the dark of dawn to my mother's sweet soft voice and her guitar... my sister, Lucy glowing in candle light, dressed in a white dress and a felt crown of candles. In my half asleep state I would listen to the beautiful song  and then Lucy would place a warm lucy cat into my hand and they would quietly move on. I would usually fall back asleep, warm lucy cat on my chest and the soothing sounds of singing in the wee hours of the early morn.

The felt crown made by my mother and used when we were children

I asked my mother to share her memories and she wrote this...

I have such warm and tender memories of celebrating this feast day each year. It is a beautiful feast to celebrate at this darkest time of the year, as St. Lucy's name means "light" and is such an apt preparation to celebrate the birth of the Light of the World. 
Your Dad said it was his very favourite celebration, and it would bring tears to his eyes each year. 
Preparing the Lucy cats the day before with you kids and touching your excitement and anticipation fueled my own. We rose early on the morning of the 13th, while all was dark, trying to be so quiet so as not to wake everyone before we were ready - making hot chocolate, warming the buns, dressing our "St. Lucy" in a white dress with a red sash. The child who was St. Lucy would carry the Lucy Cats in a basket, and she would wear the "candle" headdress. Until Lucy was born, this was the youngest child (who could walk!) - as soon as our Lucy could toddle, she took on the role with awe and determination. I would pin the words and chords to the song "Santa Lucia" to her back. If someone else was up, they would carry a votive candle, and I would play guitar as we all sang and processed to each sleeping person's bed, stopping to wake them by singing them a verse, and then giving them a Lucy Cat and a cup of hot chocolate. 
My biggest problem, besides trying to see the words and chords on the little excited Lucy's back in dim candlelight, was the lump in my throat and tears which kept coming unbidden, and making it hard to sing. The lump and the tears were just overflowing love and awe at this wonderful gift of motherhood, the precious family I had been given, and great gratitude for the gift of faith which had been bestowed on me by such a loving God.

Thank you mom for sharing your memories... brought tears to my eyes.


I wanted to share some great links with you for celebrating.





Here is the song my mother would sing


Santa Lucia
(English translation)


 Night walks with heavy tread
round farm and byre, 
dark sun-forsaken earth
shadows attire.
Then in our winter gloom
candlelight fills the room:
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!


 Silent and dark the night
now hear descending
rustle of wings in flight,
all darkness ending. 
Then she comes, dressed in white, 
head wreathed in candles bright: 
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Shadows will soon be gone
from earth’s dark valley
wonderful words anon
us cheer and rally. 
Day will soon dawn anew
in skies of rosy hue: 
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!


(I have the chords if anyone would like.)


Swedish Sankta Lucia


With Light & Love
~ Shanti ~ 

19 comments:

  1. This post is absolutely beautiful, warm, gentle and full of such light! We have not celebrated this because I never fully understood what it was about but hearing the meaning today shares so clearly what this light filled celebration is. Thank you to both you and your mama for such sweet memories and for sharing the true meaning so clearly!

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  2. Gorgeous post, and a wonderful view into your family's celebrations of such a special day.

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  3. tears all around! how beautiful these sentiments from your dear mother. the photos are lovely, too. this will bring a new spark to our own st lucia celebrations. thanks for sharing.

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  4. Here in Sweden, Lucia is a big celebration in preschools, schools and choirs! It's one of the most wonderful traditions we have, I think! A few hours ago, "my" children at the prescool sang in front of all the parents outside and then eating lussekatter and having coffe/lemonade together. Beautiful. (And oh, we have the same song, but in Swedish!)

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  5. Shanti
    Tis Jen here.... this is such a lovely story you posted. I grew up with this same tradition, and this year introduces it to Anya. She woke early with me and we brought the light of coming Christmas and Love to our sleeping family. Would you be so kind as to send me a copy of the chords? I would love a song to go with this
    Pax
    Jen

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  6. what a lovely post .. so full of light and things to be grateful for.... lovely ...
    light and peace

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  7. How wonderful. I am a Lucy, and I had no idea about this celebration until my godmother sent me greetings on my saints day today! She said she is also patron saint of writers! I am delighted to have all this information.

    On another note, I love your blog and recommended it on mine in a posting on Wonderful Women's Work last week - do come and visit. Lucy x

    http://dreamingaloudnet.blogspot.com/2010/12/wonderful-womens-work.html

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  8. Like you, my childhood was filled with the wonderful memories of St. Lucia. Your celebration looks so festive and your Lucia is so sweet. Enjoy your lussekatter, light, and the love of family and friends around you.

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  9. This is so, so sweet. I am happy that the tradition is being carried on, I have such great memories of this day too...

    Makes me miss my Mummy!

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  10. This was such a beautiful day! They'll always remember this :)

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  11. What a beautiful post! I had never heard of this tradition, but would love to add it to our own...S looks precious as St. Lucia, and I love how proud L looks! I'd love to learn the song...next time we visit you can teach it to me! Your mom's reflections so inspired me...you are blessed!

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  12. Oh your little Lucia is so very sweet!!
    We celebrated also, our oldest daughters second year rising alone in the dark to be Lucia. It was such an anticipated day! How neat that your celebrated this as a child too. It really looks like you had an exceptionally beautiful and magical day!

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  13. So beautiful ad inspiring. I celebrated this growing up in Denmark although it was never in our home always at school or in the town theater, with a grand processions. Now I am so inspired to bring this celebration home next year.
    Warmly,
    Christina

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  14. That is such a beautiful tradition, I am very drawn to it. Thank you for sharing and also to your mum, I very much enjoyed reading what she said.

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  15. Tears here too. A beautiful and educational post. This post (and your blog in general)will serve as such a light-filled journal of your childhood memories and the memories that you are now creating as a mother/family. Precious.

    Blessings, light & love...

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  16. Would you send me the chords of the song too. Thank you!

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  17. Thought I would post the chords here for all those interested.

    C G7
    1. Night walks with heavy tread
    C
    round farm and byre,
    C G7
    dark sun-forsaken earth
    C
    shadows attire.
    C G7
    Then in our winter gloom
    C
    candlelight fills the room:
    G7 C
    Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

    Each verse is the same sequence of chords.
    Enjoy!

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  18. We started doing this with our three daughters 4 years ago. This year I think they're old enough to learn the song. I'd love to teach it to them in Swedish. I did find some Swedish lyrics but only the first verse matches the lyrics in this video. Do you by any chance have the Swedish lyrics for the version in this video? This is all I have so far:

    Natten går tunga fjät
    rund gård och stuva;
    kring jord, som sol förlät,
    skuggorna ruva.
    Då i vårt mörka hus,
    stiger med tända ljus,
    Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

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  19. I remember this with such fondness, as well. :)

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