Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekend Things: Lucia Day

I love spreading our holiday festivities out through the whole month of December. It seems silly to put so much planning and preparation into just one day (although Christmas is never just one day with C's family, which is divided into multiple factions). I also like to think that having several small celebrations along the way helps dissipate some of the agonizing anticipation. Judging by the number of times a day E says, "When is going to be Christmas?" and Z growls, "Want Christmas," like Jan Brett's Christmas Trolls, I don't think it's quite having that effect.

Saturday morning, I woke up early, snuck downstairs, took the saffron roll dough out of the refrigerator, and settled on the couch with my laptop and a cup of tea. I had just been complaining about how our house is never quiet--if it's not kids fighting, it's one playing electric guitar or drums, and if the kids are in bed, it's my husband banging out Christmas carols on our badly out-of-tune upright grand piano with the cast iron sounding board--so I had to take advantage of an hour of just me and the Christmas tree lights in a quiet house to try to put a few paragraphs down in a piece I've been agonizing over.

When the dough had warmed up enough, I put rolled it into s-shapes and placed them near the warm oven to rise.

This year, I used cranberries instead of raisins in buns, to give them a Maine touch. I first soaked the cranberries in orange liqueur to make them nice and moist (and delicious) and added them to the dough, which works out much more nicely than sticking them on top.

While the buns baked, I snuck outside and took some pictures of the snow that had fallen in the night, a surprise treat after a week of rain and sleet.

At breakfast, I read a little bit about Lucia Day from our Christmas in Scandinavia book. A solstice celebration (December 13 was the solstice in the Julian calendar) that traces its origins to the Goddess Freya (who was associated with the number 13), Lucia Day, like all of the holidays this time of year, is about bringing light to the darkness. 

I don't have any adorable blond little girls to bring us the buns in bed--and none of my adorable blond little boys showed any interest in doing so. So we ate in the kitchen. At breakfast, Z said, "I like how we celebrate a lot of holidays in our family...because I get a lot of presents and good food." Oh well, so much for my hope to de-emphasize the commercial / acquisitional aspects of the season. At least he liked the buns (he ate six at breakfast!). 

After breakfast, we got to work finishing some gift-making. Z's gifts were mostly done, except for labels, and M is an artiste and cannot be rushed, so it was mostly E and me working.

I decided to let the boys off the hook with vacuuming until Sunday (when I wouldn't be home to listen to them complain) and they went outside to make the most of our few inches of fresh snow--E snowboarding and Z making snowmen inspired by Calvin and Hobbes. In addition to this one (which is throwing a snowball at the basement window) there was a beheaded one behind my car--as if I had run over it.

While they were outside, I finished decorating the tree. I thought about just leaving off the breakable ornaments this year, but once I started poking around in the box, I saw so many old favorites, most of which made it on the tree, though I skipped the glass balls and a few that I just don't care for that much. I also made some more gift bags and got our boxes (mostly) ready to go to Colorado.

In the late afternoon, while the boys were upstairs cleaning their room with M as drill sergeant supervisor (they did a marvelous job--for the first time ever without me doing most of the work), I thought about making cookies from the dough I had optimistically gotten out of the freezer Friday night (which I had even more optimistically mixed up the previous weekend) or wrestling with Christmas card labels on the computer. But instead, I relaxed on the couch with an eggnog and David Sedaris's Holidays on Ice for my annual reading of "Santaland Diaries." It makes me laugh out loud every time.

Sunday I joined some friends for the Christmas Bird Count. We saw a big flock of bluebirds (so strange this time of year, but so beautiful against the snow!) and a big, gorgeous bald eagle. When I got home, I made potato soup and the cookies I neglected Saturday (spekulatius, using that St. Nick mold, above, and my usual Joy of Cooking recipe, only I used orange flavor instead of almond extract, because I was out of the almond, and I think they're the best batch ever. Orange and cinnamon go so well together). After dinner, C and I stuffed and stamped Christmas cards (I still haven't printed out the mailing labels) while we watched Charlie Brown's Christmas with E and Z, while M played guitar in the basement with his open mic buddy.

Hope you're finding ways to bring light to the darkness this time of year, friends.


  1. Wow, what a weekend. Love the way you celebrated St. Lucia Day. We have yet to throw that festival into the mix, it feels a bit much for my little man right now, with it being in the middle of St. Nicholas and Solstice. We kinda need the down time in between the two of them. But maybe next year...

    I laughed out loud at those snowmen, the one behind the car, too funny.

    Your early morning quiet sounds lovely, it is one of my favourite times of day in our home. And the bird count, how wonderful. Never heard of a Christmas Bird Count, but what a great idea!

    Hope you are enjoying your week.

    1. I know, it's easy to overdo this time of year. We keep our little celebrations fairly simple--with a small gift or treat or a meal--it's no fun if it adds to the stress. And when the holidays don't fall on the weekend, we move them to the nearest Saturday or Sunday.

      The Christmas Bird Count is an annual Audubon Society tradition. People all over the country go out on a certain day in December or January (designated by their local chapter) and count as many birds as they can see. It's lots of fun and great citizen science!

  2. So cozy and snug--love the mental picture of you up enjoying the quiet making St. Lucia buns. Every year I say we're going to do the Christmas bird count, and every year we miss it. I suppose this year will be no exception, but one of these times, gosh darn it! :)

    1. Yes, it would be hard to do the Christmas bird count with a little one strapped to your chest--she would get in the way of the binoculars. :) All in good time.

  3. I love the way you do December. It sounds so abundant and generous.

  4. I love the way you do so many holidays. And today we are half-way through the Dark! Happy Shortest Day!


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