By Diane Saarinen

Some of you might know me as a reporter who writes for Raivaaja and New World Finn but apparently, as this photo shows, I must have some kind of secret life as that Scandinavian light-bringer herself, Santa Lucia.

This all happened innocently enough. I help out with PR for Kris Waldherr Art and Words gallery, and back in November, Kris and I were planning events to hold in the studio during the holiday season. When she mentioned an indoor artisan fair that would take place mid-December, I noted that one of the planned dates would be December 13.

“That’s the day Scandinavians celebrate Santa Lucia!” I told Kris. “Hey, I have one of those crowns. Why don’t I dress up as Lucia and pay a visit to the gallery?”

 Editor’s note: In many European nations, December 13th marks the annual Saint Lucia Day, a holiday devoted to Italian Saint Lucy (or Santa Lucia), the bearer of light. Finns commemorate the occasion by electing a local young woman to serve as an ‘official’ Lucia and lead an annual parade in the Helsinki city center. In the Scandinavian tradition, Lucia wears a white dress, a red sash around her waist and a crown of candles.

Editor’s note: In many European nations, December 13th marks the annual Saint Lucia Day, a holiday devoted to Italian Saint Lucy (or Santa Lucia), the bearer of light. Finns commemorate the occasion by electing a local young woman to serve as an ‘official’ Lucia and lead an annual parade in the Helsinki city center. In the Scandinavian tradition, Lucia wears a white dress, a red sash around her waist and a crown of candles.

We thought this was a great idea – better yet, I thought, since my crown is one of those battery-operated ones and not the kind that holds burning candles. Accidentally setting something on fire would be a hazard of the job I could live without. And never mind I couldn’t sing to save my life – this Lucia would simply pop in a CD and… well what? I hadn’t thought it out that far. Walk around the gallery, I guess!

I did end up finding a copy at home of “40 Rakkainta Joululaulua” [40 Most Beloved Christmas Songs], which included the Lucia song in Finnish, and sung by a children’s choir. Since this was shaping up to be a children’s event, this arrangement would be perfect. As for the white gown, a quick search through the L.L. Bean catalog produced a white nightgown that would do double duty as a saintly shift.

The day of the event, I made glogg (a Scandinavian Christmas drink) for the crowd. Not one to toil, I had found it at IKEA for $2.99 a bottle. My husband, Peter, helped me transport my wardrobe and accessories to the gallery, and referred to himself as Santa Lucia’s roadie.

So how did it go?

Fine! Now I know what it’s like to be a performer at children’s parties! The eager children, ranging in age from about three to five, were waiting for the mysterious lady dressed in white with candles on her head to “bring back the light.” I gave them each a battery-operated candlestick and they followed me around, as they would a Pied Piper, while the Finnish song played. They ate gingersnaps, drank glogg, and overall ended up with quite the sugar rush and ran around as expected. I heard from participating parents that it was a great success. Would I do it again? After seeing pictures of the excited faces of these children, I give a resounding “Yes!”

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