The start of holiday festivities in my home is Dec. 13, St. Lucia Day. This tradition started when our daughter was about 4 or 5 and just couldn't stand waiting until Christmas for gifts. I learned about St. Lucia's celebration from ladies in my church group at the time, with strongly Scandinavian backgrounds. Since my own Viking didn't come with any family holiday traditions, except the one about monster potato balls which we'll talk about some other day, I decided to adopt Lucia as one of our own. There's some Swedish, I think in my own ancestery, so Lucia became the bringer of the holidays for us.
In Sweden, Lucia Day is celebrated in a big way. St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304AD. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means 'light' so this is a very appropriate name.
December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, in the old Julian calendar and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden was turned into St. Lucia's Day.
St. Lucia's Day is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head. The crown is made of Lingonberry branches which are evergreen and symbolise new life in winter. There are parades, feasts and other celebrations.
In families, the youngest daughter traditionally dresses as Lucia, and awakens the family bearing special saffron breakfast rolls. Our Lucia had a crown of battery operated candles; can you imagine putting real candles on top of a squirmy 5 year old! When I didn't work, I'd bake cinnamon rolls for her to wake Daddy with. And then there was a present for everyone.
Over the years Lucia Day evolved into cooking baking day. One year at a craft show I came across this Lucia doll. She makes her appearance one day a year, this year she's got a peppermint Oreo! Lol... no little Lucia's anymore. I like Lucia day because it blends so nicely our older Christian traditions with our more current worldly religious beliefs. We still give each other a gift on Lucia Day. Now it's holiday time! How does your family mark the beginning of your holiday season?