A few years ago (back when the boys were in preschool) we did a Christmas around the World Unit, and we had a Christmas in Sweden lesson.
Back then we were doing lapbooks and tried all sorts of different recipes. Since then our learning style has changed slightly and the kids are a lot more grown up.
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Saint Lucia Day
Sweden celebrates Saint Lucia Day as part of their Christmas celebrations. I found a great book called Lucia: Saint of Light (affiliate link) on Amazon, and ordered it. It combines explanations of how they celebrate the holiday with the story of Saint Lucia (sanitized for young kids).
Who is Saint Lucia?
I’m glad you asked that. She was a young lady who gave away her dowry to the poor and was martyred for her faith. According to legend she would wear a wreath of candles on her head so she could have both hands free to carry food for the poor. And that leads to the traditions Sweden celebrates today.
First they choose a Saint Lucia bride, she wears a white dress and a red sash. She wears white because she wanted to be the Bride of Christ, and the red sash is for the red of martyrdom. The Saint Lucia bride wears all of that and has a wreath of lingonberry leaves and lingonberries (spell check does not recognize lingonberries, silly thing). She’d be in a parade, and then she would share food on other ladies.
To learn a bit more we made our own Saint Lucia wreath, and some Saint Lucia Cat bread (the other part of the tradition).
First we cut out lots and lots of leaves, I tried to get them to make holly-like leaves, but their leaves ended up more random leaf shapes.
Then use a hole punch to make your berries, as many as you want.
At this point you can either use birthday candles, or make pretend candles from card stock and tissue paper.
Glue your leaves and berries onto the outer rim of a paper plate in a circle format.
Then glue the candles down using a glue dot.
Now proudly wear your Saint Lucia wreath….. Honest you can wear this.
Then we attempted to make Saint Lucia bread from the recipe in the back of the book. I say attempted because our dough never rose. We finally baked the bread, but it was not particularly good. My mother-in-law who is actually good at baking bread and all things (unlike me) thinks the yeast might have been old, and it quite likely is because I don’t remember exactly when I bought it.
Seriously, it didn’t turn out well at all. We ended up sharing most of it with the birds, not that it tasted bad, just it was so very very heavy when you ate it.
Someday a recipe will go right. Just wait until I share with you our attempts at making a rock cycle recipe….
The other interesting Christmas in Sweden tradition is the Tomten. In most stories, he’s rather like a Swedish Santa Claus, but there are some that make tomtens an entire group of fairies that are rather like house brownies.
Our library had two books on the Tomten, and they were both quite fun.
The Christmas Tomten (I’ll warn you, this book looks to be out of print and rather expensive to order) was about the Tomten taking a young boy around as he delivered presents and then the boy getting to see the King under the Mountain. It taught an interesting lesson, and could be a great jumping off point for discussing gratitude, which the young boy was really struggling with. I also enjoyed seeing how the Tomten gave wildly different things to different people, that was interesting to me.
The Tomtes’ Christmas Porridge was our other book (this book is still in print and rather reasonably priced, I would recommend ordering this one), and it treated tomtes as if they were house brownies. On Christmas Eve in Sweden they leave out a bowl of porridge for the Tomten to eat. In this book the family is about to forget to leave out the Christmas porridge, so the Mother Tomte is trying to fix the problem. It’s a very cute book about how to solve problems, and works in well with the first book we read.
Afterwards we had our own bowl of Christmas porridge just like they do in Sweden. We even tried out putting jam in our porridge, which got very mixed reviews from everyone as we ate it. Superman really didn’t like it, but he doesn’t like jam anyways. Batman thought it was the most awesome way to eat oatmeal and declared he wanted more jam. Princess liked it okay, but wasn’t sold on the idea. I was like Princess, it was okay, but by the time I got to eat there just wasn’t any jam left for me to try.
I think we’re gonna add in Saint Lucia Day (December 13) and some of the Christmas in Sweden tradition. We’ll make it into a fun way to serve others during Christmas.
This post is written as part of a series, I’m lucky enough to join with the Multicultural Bloggers to write about Christmas Around the World. Come check out some other great posts to see how it is celebrated around the world. Also check out the Ultimate Christmas Planning Post.
Almost Unschoolers says
It looks like a nice study – even if the bread didn’t rise, and you ran out of jam. The books look great, and hey, at least you didn’t burn your house down with the St. Lucia wreath…that’s got to count for something.
That certainly does.
Phyllis at All Things Beautiful says
I love your Saint Lucia crown!
Thanks! The kids tried to convince me to let them light it while it was on my head, and I wasn’t quite up with that.
Nice crown, although I’m not sure i would ever actually be brave enough to put it atop anyone’s head….
We certainly did not while it was lit……
maryanne @ mama smiles says
I love St. Lucia day!
Did you know that yeast keeps for a LONG time if you keep it in the freezer? You don’t have to defrost before using either.
Okay, now to buy new yeast and put it in the freezer. At least I can empty out the bad yeast and get a nice little jar for something.
Love your wreath, looks fabulous. We also covered Sweden in our unit this year but it was a quick trip, only for a couple of hours. We did get a good overview of their traditions though. Would be nice to really immerse yourself in a particular country at Christmas time 🙂
I know, ours was only slightly longer than a couple of hours because I’d found some really good books this time around. I’ve got a few more books I found for England and a generic “Christmas Crafts around the world” book.
I love the crown. We have never studied St. Lucia. Maybe this year will be the year.
I found her to be a really interesting study. I highly encourage trying out the study.
Natalie PlanetSmartyPants says
Great lesson on Sweden. St Lucia traditions are so intriguing. I suppose you didn’t wear a wreath with real burning candles on it – I always wondered how real Lucia managed that feat.
Really good balance is my theory.
Marie-Claude Leroux says
You know I just love this – learning about a different culture’s celebrations and festival. I always plan on learning about St. Lucia – and never seem to get around to it. I shall vicariously through you! Thanks 🙂
I’m thinking you guys could come up with some seriously cool St. Lucia ideas.
Leanna @ Alldonemonkey says
I’ve always thought the St. Lucia wreaths were so beautiful, and I love how yours turned out! And we have commiserated before about back luck with dough that is supposed to rise but doesn’t. I feel for you! Maybe I’ll have to try MaryAnne’s freezer trick as well!
What a fun idea to try some traditions from other countries! We are a lot of people who celebrate basically the same things but in so many different ways!
Although I have to correct some things, since I’m Swedish and know how and why we celebrate the things you tried =)
The story about Saint Lucia (Sanka Lucia in Swedish) that you found seems to match what I know, but I think that the saint was from Italy originally, and that we just embraced that “holiday”.
The “Christmas Tomten” – in Swedish just “Tomten” – is quite different from what the book says.. In the beginning of our Christmas holiday, like in the 17s century and long before that, the “tomten” was a lot like what you found in the books. It/he/them was more of a weird fella’a (or fairy-like-type-of-person) who people would leave food to so that they wouldn’t be mean to the people who lived in the house. And so on, based on what you read in the book =). Although, nowadays the Tomten is our slightly different from-your-Santa-Claus. He visits us on the day we celebrate Christmas, December 24th, and have some presents with him, mostly for the kids ;-). In some houses he may even get a drink like for instance whiskey to “get through the cold weather”. The rest of the presents are already under the Christmas tree.
And for dinner, or whatever, we eat the Christmas Porridge that’s called Tomtegröt (Santa’s porridge) with milk and cinnamon. And that porridge is white and creamy =)
And about those breads you tried to bake.. I don’t know if those were supposed to be Lussebullar? They are yellow, baked in lovely shapes and have some raisins on top of it, and are DELICIOUS. =)
Thanks for letting me know. When I read all of the information in the back of the book it said she was from Italy originally (I think, it’s been a few months since I read it, and it’s up in the attic), but she appeared sometime in the Middle Ages during a famine one winter leading a ship full of supplies and that is why she was adopted there. I’d have to stop and look it up to be completely sure on that one.
I can’t remember what the bread was now, but your description sounds about right.
Yeah during the Middle Ages seems about right. Nowadays we just celebrate it because it’s cozy. Lots of candles, eating nice sweets and buns and drinking glögg.
If you don’t already have, I recommend you to look at some Lucia celebrations at youtube, preferred from “Globen” where there is a Lucia-show that you can buy tickets to to see. It’s amazing!