Saturday, December 13, 2008

December Stories and Songs, Part 13

Today is the Feast of Saint Lucy, or Sankta Luciadag in Sweden. We have never celebrated this day in the traditional way, because we are Danish, not Swedish. (Well, everyone else in the family is wearing the "Kiss Me, I'm Danish" button, I'm the one wearing the "Being Married to a Dane Builds Character" one). In case you don't know, it is the custom in Sweden for the eldest daughter to bring saffron buns and other pastries to the rest of the family in the morning, while wearing on her head a crown of lighted candles. Seriously!

Anyway, for this day I chose a Swedish story, one of our favorites, Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren. Noisy Village, which appears in at least one other of Lindgren's books, is so-called because it's a small village with several children. The book takes us through the days leading up to a Swedish Christmas celebration, with baking, decoration-making, tree-cutting, outdoor sports, and the celebration itself, which includes the traditional early-morning service on Christmas Day.

The first time I heard the song Santa Lucia, it was a translation or re-writing of the Italian version, which was in my school songbook in 4th or 5th grade. My brother was recently reminiscing about how I 'tortured' him during one summer by singing this song over and over. It is a really pretty tune, and some Swede evidently thought so too. He brought it back to Sweden and wrote new words to sing on Sankta Luciadag, on the theme of darkness being overcome by light. Anne-Sofie von Otter, as befits a Swedish mezzo-soprano, sings it very beautifully on her CD Home for Christmas. But, I also found this lovely video, where you can see that they really, really do have lighted candles on their heads. I should add that many Swedish and Swedish-American communities have community/church celebrations of Luciadag.

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