Remember when you were eight years old, and your parents encouraged you sing songs in Swedish while wearing a wreath of burning candles on your head?
Despite the photograph above, my most vivid memory was not of the event at all, but of the crippling fear that came moments before my cue in the family Christmas program. I stood in my aunt’s kitchen as my mother lit the candles and reassured me that I would NOT trip over my long white gown and set her house a blaze. I recall being surprised that my mom believed in my still questionable and developing coordination, but I was honored too, that I had been deemed worthy to carry out the tradition of the Santa Lucia in front of our family and friends.
December 13th marks Santa Lucia's Feast Day. Adopted by the Scandinavians, Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy to Italians) is said to have appeared in Sweden on the longest and darkest night of December during a time of famine. She sold her dowry to buy food for the farmers and served them coffee and saffron buns. Her wreath of candles, white gown and yellow Lucia Buns (Lussekatt) all represent light and hope.
Today in many Scandinavian homes, the oldest daughter wears a wreath with burning candles (or, these days electric candles) while singing and serving coffee and Lucia buns to her parents.
This year I decided to make a Santa Lucia wreath out of felt. I am the oldest daughter in my family and while I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the pageantry at the tender age of eight, I feel like every year I love the traditions from my childhood more and more.
I started with three basic leaf shapes, and red circles (lingonberries!!). I measured my head and cut a long strip of felt for the base of my crown. Using a hot glue gun, I attached the leaves and berries to the long felt strip and attached the ends with the same hot glue.
To make the candles I cut out a yellow flame, a red center flame (2 per candle), a thick white candle base and an off-white candle “drip”. I rolled the white felt rectangles around a pencil and secured the tight roll with hot glue. Next, I wrapped the off-white “drip” around the top of the candle, and secured it with glue. Finally, I inserted the yellow flames into the little space of the rolled felt candle, secured with glue and added the red center flames to both side.
I attached the candles to the inside of the wreath with hot glue, let the whole thing set for a few minutes.
And that's it! A Santa Lucia Wreath of Candles that is festive, quick, and safe! No stress over setting your home on fire, but all the tradition of a good Scandinavian upbringing. Today I may even bake my own Lucia buns with this recipe I found in the LA Times. Happy December 13th everyone!