There are opportunities to learn new things all year long. Even at Christmastime, when we think we know everything.
We know the radio stations will blare Christmas music, we know the kids will go crazy waiting for presents, and we know the stores will be crowded.
But do you know about the story of Santa Lucia, a tragic and heroic tale performed at Scandinavian Christmas events?
If you don’t know about it, you’re in luck. Santa Lucia, and other Scandinavian Christmas traditions, will be explained and explored Saturday in Brunswick at a “Julefest” organized by the Maine Nordmenn, an official Sons of Norway Lodge.
What, you didn’t know Maine had a lodge devoted to Norwegian and Scandinavian history and culture? See, you can learn something new, even at the holidays.
The Sons of Norway goes back to 1895, when it was organized as a fraternal benefit society by 18 Norwegian immigrants in Minnesota. Maine’s Sons of Norway Lodge was created in 2003, and began with about 56 members, said Mary Johnson, president of Maine Nordmenn.
Today, the group has about 140 members, including people who can trace their heritage back to any of the Scandinavian countries. At their Julefest (Christmas celebration), the lodge welcomes anyone who wants to learn a little something and share in a different tradition.
A highlight of the festival is a Santa Lucia program put on by youngsters. The story of Santa Lucia, which is both poignant and tragic, is not exactly the kind of thing we make TV holiday specials about.
The hero of the story is a young girl, Lucia (which means “light”), who was the daughter of a wealthy Italian nobleman around 284 A.D. She was raised Christian, a fairly new religion at the time, and decided to devote her life to God and never marry.
Along came a man who wanted to marry her, and when she refused, he reported her to Roman authorities. The Romans put her to death on Dec. 13, which happened to be the longest and darkest night of the year.
Years later, so the story goes, there was a terrible famine in Sweden. A ship full of food arrived one night — on Dec. 13 — and standing on the bow of the ship was a young woman in a white robe with a crown of glowing candles.
So today, in Scandinavian countries and households, the story of Santa Lucia is celebrated on Dec. 13 by having the oldest daughter in the family get up very early, while it’s still dark, and put on a white dress and a crown. Then the daughter and her siblings are supposed to go the bedrooms of the adults in the house, sing a song about Lucia and serve a treat known as Santa Lucia Buns.
At the Julefest, people will get a taste of the Santa Lucia tradition. There will be a narrator telling the story. A teenager will be chosen to act as Lucia, and other children will be involved as well. Sweet treats will be offered.
The whole Santa Lucia program will take about 10 minutes, Johnson said. The rest of the time, people will be able to sample other Scandinavian treats. Those will likely include Kransekake, an almond ring cake that usually shows up at all “big occasions in Norway,” said Johnson. The cake consists of 18 “wreaths” of decreasing size, stacked on top of each other and usually decorated with tiny Norwegian flags.
There will also be a toast (for adults) with Aquavit, the national drink of Norway. And there will be Christmas carols sung in Norwegian and English, and a dance around the Christmas tree with everyone holding hands, which Johnson says is another Norwegian custom.
And of course, a visit from Santa Claus.
Johnson says the event is open to anyone with an interest in Scandinavian culture.
And, of course, it’s open to anyone who simply has an interest in seeing how other cultures celebrate Christmas beyond the usual cartoons on TV and frenzied gift-shopping treks.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:
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