When the first of four Advent candles is lit in Swedish homes and churches, there are three more weeks until the arrival of Christmas on December 24.
Candles and the concept of light are very central to the Swedish Christmas celebration, because the days are shorter due to the sun is rising later and setting sooner winter time.
One of the best memories I have from growing up as a child is how we celebrate Lucia which is a big Swedish tradition during the Christmas season on December 13. All the children at schools everywhere get dressed in white robes holding candles and with tinsel in our hair. One lucky girl from each class got to be Lucia, the queen of light, with a crown of white candles on her head singing with her hands pressed together like a Saint. Last in the "Lucia train" are the Star boys, holding paper stars on a stick and wearing conical hats decorated with stars, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem. We sing Christmas carols in front of our teachers and parents who are able to come. After singing a few Lucia carols, we offered our audience saffron flavoured buns called "Lusse Cats", that I am now baking with my own kids at home in December.
Later I have learned that Lucia came from Italy. Until quite recently the celebration of Lucia, which means light, was local to the western Sweden only, but during the last century it spread to the entire country.
There is a Swedish school for children in Falls Church where many Swedish/American children attend on Saturday mornings to learn the native language. I am proud to say that my children enjoy our Saturdays there. And last Saturday we, the parents and teachers, had all the children dress up in the white gowns with a Lucia performance at the Swedish Embassy in Washington DC. It was a lot of fun! Many pictures was taken, which reminded me and many other Swedish parents of my child hood at Christmas time.
I wish all of you a Very Merry, Peace full Christmas and please don't get too caught up in all the gift giving because after all it is the dear memories of Family and friends that is most important.
Thank you for letting me share a part of me.