Mr. Hat's maternal grandfather was Swedish, despite the family hailing from Finland as far back as I can go. Still, by the time Mr. Hat was around, there was no familial observation of St. Lucia day, a major Scandinavian holiday; as far as I know, it wasn't something his mother celebrated while growing up either.
As an adoptive mother, I can't pass along genetics. But I can pass on the traditions and cultures associated with our genes. This desire serendipitously collided with a recipe I found in a magazine for an amazing "St. Lucia Bread" I HAD to try. Hello, orange infusion? Orange glaze? Homemade bread? Um, yah. We've got Swedes in our house, so why not celebrate this holiday? At the time, I knew no one Swedish who celebrated St. Lucia Day to show me how it was done.
I was on my own, wanting that bread.
I began by learning about the day's honoree: St. Lucia. She is said to have brought food and comfort to the poor and/or Christians hidden in the dark catacombs (depending on the version of the story you read). Her hands laden with provisions, she needed a hands-free way to light her path. Adding some lighted candles to her braided, coroneted hair, she entered the dark warrens looking like the angel she was.
And so began our tradition: gathering around our braided, lighted bread in the evening of each December 13, to reflect on how fortunate we are and plan how we will give to those less fortunate as St. Lucia did, donating toys for Toys for Tots, contributing to food pantries, gathering new mittens or scarves for the homeless, etc. Though money is tight, often painfully tight, for us, we are still so, so fortunate and I want my kids to realize it.
So, you see it isn't how one is supposed to celebrate the day. But it's the way we do it, and it tastes sweet all the way around.