December 13 is St. Lucy's Day, which I've always thought of as "Santa Lucia." It's a holiday celebrated mostly in Italy and Scandinavia. And since my hometown is called New Sweden, it's hardly surprising that we celebrate it here, too. When I was in grade school, it would be celebrated pretty much the same as in Swedish households, I believe. My memories of grade school are fuzzy, but I can tell you this: we had a fairly small building that had eight grades, though I don't remember exactly how many classrooms we had (some of them had just one grade, and some had two grades). I'm pretty sure it was the eighth graders who would do the Santa Lucia Day procession, marching slowly and solemnly to each classroom, where they'd deliver pepparkakor to all the younger students. (Wikipedia also mentions saffron buns, which I don't specifically remember, but they don't look unfamiliar. It's possible I've had those either in grade school or elsewhere, on St. Lucy's Day or some other time, but I'm not sure.) Pepparkakor is the Swedish word for ginger thins. (In the U.S., gingersnaps are more common, but those aren't generally thin, and the ones we got in school were... and that's important.) I don't remember (or perhaps was never aware) whether the pepparkakor we got was homemade or store bought, but it's entirely possible that the school's cooks made them. Anyway, what I remember most about them was that you'd lay the cookie flat on your palm, and poke down on the middle. If it broke in three pieces, that was supposed to be good luck.
But anyway... it's not just about cookies. The kids in the procession wore white gowns, at least the girls did. I don't remember if the boys did so, or just wore like black dress pants and white dress shirts. Anyway, the girl in front would be portraying St. Lucia, an early fourth century saint from Syracuse, Sicily, who was killed for her Christian beliefs. I really don't know (or remember) much about her, but I get the impression that we mostly just have legends, rather than hard facts. But the reason for the traditions is less important to me than the traditions themselves. Anyway, the girl paying Lucia would have a wreath of candles on her head, and the other girls in the procession would each just be carrying a candle. I think the boys also carried candles, but I don't remember that as clearly. I can say that the boys were called star boys, and they wore white conical hats (that looked like dunce caps, but that's definitely not what they were). And the hats had stars on the front. And as everyone made their way through the school, the lights would be turned out, the better to appreciate the candlelight. And the song Santa Lucia would be sung... Actually, I don't remember if it was the students who sang it, or teachers, or if it was a recording. In any event, it's originally a Neapolitan song (a language of southern Italy), but it's also been translated into Swedish, which I assume is what we heard in grade school. But I don't remember any words other than the title itself. Still, the tune of the song is very nostalgic to me. Incidentally, I suppose I must have been one of the star boys when I was in eighth grade, but I don't have any clear memory of that. Yeah... like I said, all my memories are fuzzy.
And I'm not sure what else to tell you. I'm sure I'm forgetting things. I mean, even more than the things I already said I don't remember (things that I don't even remember that I don't remember). And... I also feel like I must have seen my Ohio cousins, or at least Britta, do a Santa Lucia procession much more recently, but if so, I don't remember that clearly, either. Like whether I saw it in person, during the couple of years when I lived in Ohio (2003-04), or just saw pictures/video of it online, or what. Man, I really need a new memory. In any event... have I mentioned that the whole Santa Lucia thing is nostalgic? Not just the song, but the whole thing.