Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Bread So Fabulous, It Spawned a Family Tradition

If you are Scandinavian and celebrate St. Lucia Day, be warned: We have a very skewed celebratory tradition for this day. We do it completely wrong. We know. And I'm great with it.

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.

Now that my kids are older, I wanted our giving to be more sacrificial on their part. So this year, we sat around our bread and I told them my plan (which I'll confess has some benefit for me, too). There are a bazillion things on my "to-do" list to prepare our house for hosting Christmas this year. And I have three little hooligans who need something to do for the week of break preceding Christmas. So they'll be giving sweat equity: each task will have a penny value assigned, one cent for minor tasks and more for more difficult or time-consuming tasks. When the task is completed, the assigned number of pennies will be put in a jar. At the end of the week, we'll convert those pennies to dollars that we'll donate to a local homeless shelter. Our children, having no money to give, will give of themselves, working and denying themselves the pleasure of spacing out in front of the television or Wii time.

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.

1 comment:

  1. How neat!! We went to the Swedish Society's St. Lucia Christmas program downtown this year! Scott works for a Swedish company and its in me too! I love that bread and yours looks wonderful with that glaze!