December 13th in the Scandinavian countries is Santa Lucia Day. Although it is not vital to celebrating Jesus’ birthday, the nostalgia of Santa Lucia nudged it into our December calendar. On this day we do all the things that remind me of my Scandinavian heritage. We read stories of Norwegian Nisse (a small gnome) and Swedish Christmas traditions I heard from my grandparents. We pull out my beloved Kirsten doll I got from my grandma and read about her dress of white with the red sash and her crown of leaves and candles. This dress and crown are a special part of my childhood memories. Grandma would help me or my sister dress in white and she would put the battery lit candle crown on our head, place a tray of goodies in our hands and let us wake everyone up Christmas morning. “Welcome to breakfast” we would say and beam with pride at being the chosen girl for that year. It was a magical memory for me. Last year, Jenna wore a paper crown and woke everyone up on December 13th with breakfast in bed. This year, life prevented it from happening, but she remembered and begged to do it again.
As with Saint Nicholas I did some research into Santa Lucia and found stories of a woman who brought food to persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs. She used the crown of candles to light her way as she carried her trays of food in the dark. We could argue about how both Nicholas and Lucia were sainted and how we disagree with sainting humans, but understand that in their day they were a part of the only widely known God worshipping church that existed. Nicholas and Lucia did what they thought would help people like Jesus would have done and were probably not looking for the recognition that they ended up getting. I have chosen to add the story of Santa Lucia to our celebrations to honor my Scandinavian heritage and on 3 Kings Day later on we will honor my husband’s Polish heritage. We keep the story of Santa Lucia simple and talk about why some churches saint people. It’s a door to conversation about church history, one we can expound on as they get older. If I weren’t Scandinavian and if it hadn’t been so special to my grandma, I probably would not have included it in our calendar. But each country has special days that Christians can use to illuminate the name of Christ while remembering and enjoying the culture they came from. Santa Lucia Day is the one I use.