This post originally appeared at Happy Hedgehog Post.
Winter memories…The sounds of Swedish folk music playing in the background, gingerbread cookies from my Great-grandmother’s recipe, smells of cinnamon, evergreen and lingonberry sauce. I can close my eyes and vividly recall sitting on my Grandpa’s lazy boy, curled up in a blanket, dreamily watching their golden Angel chimes that would slowly turn around. I remember the grand collection of aprons that my Grandma had for us to choose from as we helped mix and roll out hundreds of cookies. I remember the odd pickled vegetables and fish that my Grandparents would jokingly try to get us to try on Christmas Eve. But, most of all. I remember their love of St. Lucia Day.
In many Scandinavian families, the St. Lucia tradition has become one of the most beloved hallmarks of the year. St. Lucia was a young girl, who as history and legend tell it, fully devoted her life to the service of others*. During the cold, winter months, she would do her work by candlelight; a wreath placed atop her head, leaving her hands free to work and care for others. In her honor, it is tradition for the eldest daughter to wake up early in the morning on St. Lucia Day, December 13th, to prepare delicious Saffron buns to present to her family. Clothed all in white, with a red sash and crown of candles, the sight of a St. Lucia girl is simply angelic. In many European countries and in some US cities, elaborate concerts and pageants are presented to honor this tradition.
Here is a lovely video of the celebration in Sweden:
Now that I am a mother of my own three children, I have given much thought about why I still find so much comfort in these traditions. Why do so many families still treasure this festival, especially in the Waldorf community?
The answer for me came unexpectedly this autumn as our family went through a series of struggles that left me questioning how I was going to cope. I was up late after midnight, handwashing the dishes, stressed and scared, with hot tears falling down my cheeks. Money woes, homeschooling stresses, health worries, the election, the darkness of world events seemed to crowd out and scare away my normally high spirited and peppy nature. Life felt unusually hard. Outside of my home, the dark and cold Michigan skies seemed foreboding instead of comforting. We all have those moments where the weight of the world seems to weigh heavily upon us.
I would like to say that these feelings passed immediately, but they didn’t. I struggled on with them until I recognized that I had allowed these circumstances outside of myself to dictate my inner light, peace, my joy and my ability to be present with my children. This was not the way I wanted to begin the holiday season. My own reservoir of light was low. How could I bring it to my children or share it with others around me?
I recognized in little bits and pieces, through a beautiful scene in nature, to the perfect song coming on the radio, a message at church, the sight of my children playing together, to the presence of a good friend, or a kind message online, that there were sparks of light all around me.
The bigger realization that I had was that for my children, I need to be that light. I AM that light.
This message became highlighted to me throughout the rest of the season and now as Winter is here, I see more than ever the need to stoke that inner fire and share it with others, especially my children.
How do we find light within us and around us, during times of darkness?
Change our perspective– Often when we are in the middle of a mess, that is all we can see. This tunnel-vision can make it nearly impossible to see how hope or light outside of the difficult trials that we have right in from of us. Trying to see the big picture can help us put our problems in perspective.
Look Within- We can be tempted to rely on others or our circumstances to dictate our level of happiness. Recognizing our own power can help us to separate our self-worth and contentment from external forces.
Reach Outward– sharing our experiences can help us to understand we are not alone. Being the first one to open up usually results in friends and family coming forward with similar experiences and feelings. There is strength in knowing that others have walked your path before, that they understand and that they have made it to the other side.
Practice Gratitude– No matter how small, try to find the moments of beauty and joy in your day that you can be grateful for. Electricity, food to eat, warm clothing, shelter, books to read, healthy children, snow, sunrises and sunsets. The more you practice gratitude, the more easily you will be able to see goodness in your life.
Stoke the flame of hope- “What we call despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.” – George Eliot. Often recognizing that you are in a fog, can be a good signal that it is time to start making small changes that can help with our well being.
Serve Where You Are– While many of us desire to be right on the front lines in service and advocacy groups, our work as parents may make us feel limited in what we CAN do. Serve where you are. Serve your family by caring for your home and giving them your best. Serve the homeless and marginalized in your community by providing food, care packages, a letter or phone call to lawmakers or warm clothing. Uplift and support the other mothers around you. Be kind. Be positive.
Celebrate the Everyday- The Christmas season is the perfect time focus on bringing small and simple traditions to your life with children. These sensory experiences are full of beauty and joy. They help us to connect to our children in meaningful ways. What is a simple tradition you can bring to your children this week?
Lastly, I wanted to share with you the lyrics to the favorite St. Lucia song, which has special meaning for me this year:
Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Night walks grand, yet silent,
Now hear its gentle wings,
In every room so hushed,
Whispering like wings.
Look, at our threshold stands,
White-clad with light in her hair,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Darkness shall take flight soon,
From earth’s valleys.
So she speaks a
Wonderful Word to us:
A new day will rise again
From the rosy sky…
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Sheet music can be found here.
I pray that your upcoming week will be full of beauty, light and hope. Blessings during this beautiful season.
Love & Light,
- There is a more thorough history of St. Lucia that can be found on Wikipedia. It may be too involved and dark to share with young children. For the purposes of our family celebrations we leave the story at, “She devoted her life to service” and give them some examples.