Tag Archives: Santa

It’s a question of… believing in something

This morning I watched a woman on TV help people find their “inner elf” (while giving them a massage…). Despite my love of all things mythical and my fondness of elves, I didn’t quite buy her theory about us all having one by our side. I mean, wouldn’t the elf’s presence interfere with that of the guardian angel also supposed to be hanging around?

Knowing what to believe in is something that’s getting harder as I grow older. Take Christmas for example. When I was a little girl, it was pretty simple: there was the story about baby Jesus and the one about Father Christmas. Then you get a little older and understand the real meaning of virgin (as in Mary) and things get a little confused. From that moment on, everything goes downhill. You read that Jesus was in fact not even born in December and that the real “Father Christmas” was a Turkish saint and didn’t wear the red suit trimmed with fur and a belt till he appeared in some Coca-Cola advertisement.

I willingly admit that Christmas for me today is not a question of the Christ’s birth. (If you think about it, a Christmas tree, Christmas food and heaps of presents have nothing to do with it either). I do however celebrate this time of the year with gusto, sing carols about the “little lord  Jesus” and sometimes, even go to church on Christmas Eve.  Why? Because it’s tradition, because it’s cosy and because it  brings together the family. And I believe in that. I love the rituals surrounding Christmas; I like the smell and the taste of it. And I don’t mind telling my son about Jesus or Father Christmas, because they’re great stories and well, without them, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas the way we do. It also makes the “season of giving” spirit easier to explain.

Of course, I also try to give him a little “outside” knowledge and point out that – as he’s already learning in school – many Christian celebrations are closely bound to old beliefs. He knows how Christmas is related to the winter solstice and Viking Yule, and of course, having friends with other beliefs, he’s aware that our Christmas is just one of the possibilities.

Many erudite men and women have established that it’s important for humans to believe in something. And while the best thing is probably to believe in oneself, there’s no harm in getting a little help from somewhere or someone else. Be it a God or a Santa, an angel or an elf – or a whole bunch of them. As long as the helpers stay helpers and don’t become judges or controllers…

I for one will be setting out a bowl of porridge tomorrow for the Christmas elf. Just in case. So he’ll be nice to me the rest of the year…

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It’s a question of… Sankta Lucia and candles

Last years not-so-fantastic Lucia buns

Today, the 13th December, I’ll be making yellow buns, twisting them into strange forms and sticking raisins in them. It’s part of a Scandinavian tradition that also involves young girls dressed in white, walking around with candles and singing.

These joyous celebrations are made in honour of Lucia, patron saint of the city of Syracuse in Italy – which in itself can seem a little strange as the nominal religion in Scandinavia is protestant, and protestants don’t “believe” in catholic saints.

It’s said that Lucia was condemned to be burnt for not wanting to marry a pagan. But she resisted the fire. Another story says she secretly took food to the poor at night and carried a crown of candles on her head so she could see where she was going. A third story has her taking out her eyes to convert a Prince to Christianity. All stories somehow make it possible to connect her with light – and that’s important. Because the 13th December is not only the day Lucia died (a sword finally got her), it was also known as the shortest day of the year (before the Gregorian calendar was adopted), the winter solstice, which of course has pagan roots. In other words, saint or no saint, Lucia is the bearer of light and Lucia Day a celebration of the days getting longer again.

Sofia Hogmark, Lucia of Sweden 2009

Lucia Day is celebrated in all of the Nordic countries, but is probably taken most seriously in Sweden. Every year there’s a national competition to chose the Lucia of the year (think Miss Sweden without the bathing suits) and most towns have their own local Lucia competition.

When I was a small girl in Denmark, our school (like most others) organized a Lucia procession each year. We all wanted to be the Lucia bride – that’s the girl who leads and who gets to carry a crown of candles on her head (the others just follow holding a single candle). But, at the time, the “politically correct” had not yet been installed and only blond longhaired girls had a chance of getting elected – which excluded me.

A danish version, as I remember it…

The shorthaired and/or dark haired girls got their vengeance later, when the Lucia bride cried as teachers combed candle wax out of her hair or, in some cases, because her hair was burnt… (I’m told that nowadays, battery driven candles are used instead of real ones).

However odd the Sankta Lucia celebration may seem, I love it. So, as my neighbours light their third Hanukkah candle today, we’ll be lighting our third advent candle (another protestant ritual – also done on a crown…) and a whole lot other candles for Lucia, whatever her real story might be. Maybe it all comes down to what the Chinese say: “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness”…

A more “professional” swedish version of the Lucia song…

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