Growing up in the rural south, I thought I knew what those guys in pointy white hats were all about. If you’re American and know about the KKK, you can imagine my surprise at walking into my sons’ international school and seeing young men and boys in white robes wearing tall, white, pointed hats.
I did not know the tradition of several Scandinavian countries to celebrate Santa Lucia on December 13th near the time of the Winter Solstice.
Around Christmas time….The celebration comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.
St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304AD. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name. (More here.)
Who could resist following the girls with their crowns and all the children in white to the auditorium? Not me. A beautiful older student stood in St. Lucy’s place leading the parade of children and youth. The fiery candles burning on her crown made me hope she hadn’t worn much hair spray. By candle light traditional carols drifted with the light smoke odor to my ears.
The song from the procession repeated as the children filed out. Which carol was it? I wondered as I later read the first lines of three: The night walks with heavy steps, or Saint Lucy bright mirage, or the modern Outside it is dark and cold. Regardless, it was an all together lovely celebration followed by cookies and country displays in the cafeteria.
Living overseas, so much is entirely new to me yet parts of age old traditions to others. I find I am grateful for the unexpected blessing of those pointy white hats. A vision long associated with extremism, racism, and terror in my country has been, if not redeemed, at least altered. I have a new vision superimposed over the one of hatred and violence. A vision of light and the love that Christ inspired in one young woman, a girl named Lucy.
Kristin King is an author, US expat in Holland, and co-founder of the nonprofit Future Hope Africa. Unexpected Blessings is a category of posts that includes Am I a Bad Mom? and Sunrise Over Port de Pollenca.
Feel free to comment and leave your own stories of the unexpected.