Sunday, 16 December 2012

Santa Lucia comes to Brooklyn

Guest post by Diane Saarinen

Just before dawn, December 13th, any year: It’s always the same in our household. Sweet gingerbread cookies on a festive holiday plate, (non-alcoholic) glogg warming on the stove. I am already wearing the white flannel nightgown and red sash, frantically glancing at the clock and listening for sounds of reassuring snoring (I mustn’t wake him yet!) from my husband. I adjust my crown of candles. The candles are battery-operated. I don’t dare wear live ones – I have no Star Boys following me with a bucket of water and I am far too accident-prone.

Star Boys. December 13th. It can only mean one thing. Santa Lucia Day is here!

The Santa Lucia pre-dawn ritual is carried out in Sweden and Finland, where the December days are so dark it’s not hard to imagine the anticipation surrounding the “return of the light”. Although she was a Sicilian saint, somehow the legend of Lucia emerging from the cold winter darkness, her bright halo created by the crown of candles all aglow all the while carrying a tray of glogg (a hot mulled drink) and lussekatter (Lucy Cat pastries) while sweetly singing the Lucia song, has become a beloved seasonal tradition in the Nordic countries.

Our celebration here in Brooklyn is improvised, naturally. It’s the oldest daughter in the Scandinavian household who is Lucia – not the middle-aged wife I am. However, my husband and I have no children together. Age is relative, after all!

Another thing. I never did this as a child. My considerable interest in all things Finnish only became evident after my Finnish parents had passed away. It was a sad realization I had one day when I contemplated not hearing the sounds of “Finnglish” again, while remembering beloved customs of our culture that we did celebrate:  the food (Karelian pastries and “Swedish” meatballs); the holidays (hyvää joulua! – Merry Christmas! – complete with joulupukki, a very special Santa); and the attitude (sisu it’s called – look up this untranslatable word). So one December morning, over a decade ago, I created what is now a tradition for our family, the hybrid Brooklyn-Finnish Santa Lucia morning. Pikkujoulu (Little Christmas) is here! Happy Holidays.

Diane Saarinen is a publicist, Media Goddess, and runs the Saima Agency.


  1. Diane, you look amazing as Lucia and what a nice tradition! What a nice way to start the Joulu celebrations!

  2. Diane, you look lovely! My half-Swedish granddaughters used to do this and grandma would get very teary!