It's morning of December 13 and all across Sweden girls get up very early, dress in long white gowns, put a candle crown in their hair (if they are chosen to be a Lucia) or a candle in their hands and form a procession - a Lucia taaget .
In Oesterskaer, the far outburb of Stockholm, deep in the Swedish archipelago, my daughter and her friends used to form such a procession, walking around the neighborhood in the dark early morning hours, singing a Swedish version of an old Neapolitan Santa Lucia song and offering saffron buns (Lussekatter)
and ginger snaps (pepparkakor), while the visited families would offer them an (alcoholfree) gloegg, otherwise usually a strong concoction of red wine, vodka (or cognac), spices, raisins and almonds.
Since it was winter in a northern country, it was usually cold, often bitterly cold, and the girls wore their white gowns over full winter clothes, which made them look a bit more like snow bunnies than willowy maidens. Boys joined in the fun, too, as star boys (stjaerngossar) .
There are many - and conflicting - explanations while the 4th century's Sicilian saint became so widely - and enthusiastically - celebrated in Sweden. One, the most plausible, is the light she bears in the darkest month of winter.
On this 13th od December I wake up in Puerto Rico, to the sound of surf and the sight of cocos palms framing the beach in front of my cabin... and nowhere in sight is there a Lucia, or a single saffron bun or a glass of gloegg. Not even a Lucia doll, since I forgot to pack her with me - and I feel sorry for myself. I'd rather be in Sweden today!
From the Swedish associations and clubs in Atlanta invitations drop into my email box to various Lucia celebrations there and I have to answer to all: "Sorry, can't come, I am in Puerto Rico" - and again I feel sorry having to miss all that fun. :-((
Oh, well, perhaps next year I could treat myself to a Lucia in the arctic, snow, cold, reindeers and ane of the arctic ice hotels. I haven't been to Northern Sweden since the year before my spouse, Erik, a real Norrlaenning, born and raised north of the Arctic circle, died 15 years ago.
But maybe after all this time I could be able to enjoy a visit to Norrland without him? Or if not to Norrland, than to either Stockholm or Skaane - two places I lived in - both with and without him?