Ghosts of Lucia Past

Last night I had the amazing opportunity to be Lucia at the Ambassador's Christmas party at House of Sweden. It was a last minute switch - I was there to participate in the program already, but when the girl who was going to be Lucia couldn't make it, I was asked if I would be interested.

Interested? Yes, of course. Mildly terrified? Yes, of course.

The mild terror is due to the fact that this group sings a lot of songs that I didn't sing growing up, so I'm still struggling to master all of the words. When you're Lucia, all eyes are on you - so it's harder to slack off and look down to read the words you scribbled as a cheat sheet on the drip catcher around your candle. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, the old just mouth "watermelon" when you don't know the words trick? Doesn't work with Swedish. Swedes use their lips a lot - it's constant exaggerated movement. Hard to fake.)

I had so much fun being Lucia, I'm so glad they gave me the opportunity! This group performs several times throughout December, and they have a different Lucia each time, to give as many girls the chance as possible.
My friend Veronica and I

After we finished, one of the girls asked me if this was my first time as Lucia. "Why, no..." I responded....

*cue super-wavy flashback effect as we look back and visit the ghosts of Lucia's past*

Oooh - a little too far back! This is actually my mom. Oh well, you can't really tell the difference anyhow.
My Morbror Stig sent a Lucia crown to me from Sweden when I was quite young, and I have done countless presentations in school to try to bring the light of Lucia to all of my elementary cohorts.

I started participating in the Lucia program in Utah when I was 8 years old. I was wide-eyed and awed by seeing the confident teenage girls at practice, and also by the small bangs on the piano keys that resulted when we'd hit the wrong note or get our pronunciation wrong. We'd be drilled at pronunciation, chanting a word over and over like some small Swedish cult as we tried to get it right. (Militant attention to our pronunciation was not wasted - I've had a few Swedes today tell me that they are impressed with my pronunciation of Lucia songs.)

The program was always beautiful, but a few years had more hiccups than others. I remember one year frantically driving down a busy road, hoping to find a bush on the side of it that we could stop at to pick foliage to decorate the Lucia crown. I think we finally stopped at a business and tried to discreetly prune their bushes - the bushes needed pruning, in our defense.

One year my dad noticed my younger brother Anders looking paler and paler as the performance went on. He realized what was happening and ran up to the stage just in time to catch him as he fainted. Lesson learned: don't lock your knees. I kept thinking about that last night, and praying that I wouldn't faint, fall over the banister and end up setting the embassy on fire.

One year, Lucia finally fell on a Saturday. My best friend Kari and I were so excited - she had always wanted to be there to see Lucia morning at my home, but we could never convince our parents that a mid-week sleepover was a good idea. At last our time had come. Friday night she came to my house and we went to bed that night with visions of Lucia's dancing in our heads.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the night I came down with a stomach flu bug. There was to be no Lucia that year. When we sit and bemoan the unfairness of childhood that was never resolved, that night of failed Lucia is top of the list.

When I was 12 or 13, I got up early and snuck to the kitchen to prepare the Lucia tray alone. In a fit of ambition I pulled out my mom's hot chocolate from scratch recipe and began to clatter around as quietly as I could, trying to make it. It didn't work. I'm not sure what happened exactly - maybe it burned? Maybe it never pulled together? I became more and more flustered and frustrated as the minutes crept by, and more and more worried that my mom would realize I was not yet capable of doing Lucia on my own. Finally, in a fit of passion I stalked into my parents room, pelted my sleeping father with lussekatter and stormed out in tears.

My dad calls this The Year of the Dark Lucia. I think of it as The Year I Became a Teenager.

I actually hate this story, but I am starting to slowly come around to seeing the humor in it. Lesson learned: at five in the morning, hot chocolate should be made from a mix.

After I graduated high school it was finally time for me to be Lucia myself in the program in Utah. For many years Lucia had been determined by a vote within the heritage society, but as with any organization of people, politics soon entered the picture, certain large families seemed to dominate the elections, and finally it was decided that instead Lucia would be the girl who had been in the program the longest. This of course led to problems when it was found that multiple girls had been in for the same amount of years. Because I grew up in the age of everyone being special, the decision was made that multiple Lucia's was the answer.

So my year there were four of us. Yes, that's right, four Lucia's. We had fun, but I think some of the magic of being Lucia was missing when you split it four ways. :)

My dear friend Kylee attended the performance that year, and was listening reverently in the audience as we sang. Suddenly a miracle occurred - she realized she had been given the gift of tongues! She could suddenly understand everything we sang, it all made sense!

She was elated until she realized we had actually just begun to sing in English - our typical program consisted of singing Still Natt (Silent Night) in Swedish once, then again in English and inviting the audience to sing along.

Having the gift of tongues was a beautiful feeling though, I think.

Last night will now join the ranks of notable Lucia memories. The embassy was packed of beautiful dressed people, and when we began to sing I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas (in English) they were invited to sing along. The best way to spread Christmas cheer, you know, is singing loud for all the hear - and something really magical happens when the room is suddenly filled with voices singing a Christmas song all together.

Fortunately I didn't faint, I didn't light the embassy on fire accidentally, I smiled brightly and even managed a few natural-looking peeks at my cheat sheet on my drip catcher. (I'm sure they were natural-looking.)

Lesson learned: If there is even a chance you may end up as Lucia at an important event, have a real camera there. My ipod's lack of quality in low-light situations has never hurt me more. Also, you have to keep your chin down more than you'd expect when wearing that crown.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to picking the wax out of my hair.

Happy Lucia!