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How to Celebrate the Flame-Filled Saint Lucia's Day Responsibly



HAPPY SAINT LUCIA DAY EVERYBODY!


First of all, I should tell you that I'm a BIG FAN of Saint Lucia, also known as Saint Lucy. Saint Lucy was a virgin martyr during the early fourth century which was the time of the Roman Empire's most severe persecution of Christians. According to legend, she brought food and aid to the Christians hiding in the catacombs. To light her way she wore a candlelit wreath on her head, thereby leaving her hands free to carry as much food as possible.


Saint Lucia's Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Lucy, is one of the most beautiful Scandanavian Christmas traditions. Lucia means "light" and her feast day is now widely celebrated as a festival of light on December 13th. In churches a young girl representing Lucia is followed by a procession of handmaidens (‘tärnor’), star boys (‘stjärngossar’) and gingerbread men (‘pepparkaksgubbar’). As the "bearer of light", Lucia walks down the aisle with a wreath with candles on her head. The rest of the “Luciatåg” procession—dressed in white with crimson ribbons around their waists—carry candles. It is a gorgeous spectacle. Honestly, I don't know why St. Nick gets all the attention at Christmas. Saint Lucy is far more romantic.


Saint Lucia was also a "bearer of food". So in many homes daughters will dress the part and portray Lucia by carrying trays filled with treats like gingerbread biscuits or an S-shaped saffron bun called a “Lussekatt”.


Over the past few years I became obsessed with the gorgeous images of girls wearing those candlelit crowns and decided to adopt a Saint Lucia tradition myself—minus the food part. I'm not known for cookery. In fact I have actually burned water. More than once. (Nobody wants me to whip up any kind of treats for Christmas. Food poisoning never feels festive.)


Last year I finally found a shop that sold Saint Lucia crowns. (Basically a candleholder for your head.) I purchased one for myself and one for my granddaughter. Her's was a plastic crown with battery-operated candles and mine was a metal band that felt about as comfortable as that creepy mask thingy that the sadistic psychiatrist in Silence of the Lambs used on Hannibel Lecter's head when he was strapped to that vertical gurney. From the moment I tried it on I looked like Thor's crazy Aunt Lucy.




SAINT LUCIA CROWN TEST DRIVE

I should audition for Marvel Studios, right?



My grandbebe and I had a MARVELous time wearing our crowns last Christmas. And like my granddaughter, I opted to go with battery-operated candles rather than risk wearing real flames. Mainly because I was in my son's new home and probably wouldn't have been invited back if I accidentally set it on fire.


But this year I had to Saint Lucia alone, so I was determined to be brave and actually wear lit candles.

ON MY HEAD!

ATOP MY HIGHLY-FLAMMABLE HAIR!


And because I didn't want to risk burning my own house down either, I opted for an outdoor photoshoot.

IN THE HIGHLY-FLAMMABLE WOODS!

RIGHT NEXT TO MY HOUSE!


But if you think I was being irresponsible, let me assure you I WAS NOT!


That's because I took a fire extinguisher. And I posed on a day when it had snowed a little the night before and the woods were icy and wet and it offered a better chance of survival if I had to Stop, Drop & Roll.


I also wanted to avoid hypothermia, so I garbed myself in not one, but TWO, victorian nightgowns. I pulled on my wellie boots, donned my unlit, candle-laden crown, grabbed an armload of berry branches and then proceeded to drag my less-than-enthusiastic husband (lugging the fire extinguisher) outside to take photos with my cell phone.


Unfortunately, the moment we stepped out the door we were hit with some mighty winds. (The freezing kind that accompany snow.)


"This is a ridiculous idea!" my husband growled, as he buttoned his coat to block the frigid air. "There's no way you will even be able to LIGHT the stupid candles in these winds."


"That's why I want to go down the hill into the woods where we won't get high winds."


"Well, that might work . . ."


We trotted to the edge of the woods and began to descend into the valley. That's when I realized my wellie boots had NO tread whatsoever.


"WHOA!" I screeched as I began to slip and slide on the icy leaves. "Wait up! Let me hold your arm. These boots are super-slick."


"Why does this always happen with you?" Dan grumbled as I took his arm for support. "Don't you have ANY boots with treads?" (I have a treadless-boot-while-hiking history. Drives my husband mad!)


"I can't help it if these boots aren't made for ice. Just walk slow so that I don't slip and fall. I don't want the gown to get muddy so—WEEE-OOOOOW!


Obviously I had jinxed myself because at that precise moment my foot shot out from underneath me and the other one followed. Some residual vestige of my former dance reflexes kicked in and before I slammed flat onto my back I caught myself with a Cossack squat-and-kick move; the right side of my derrière dropping onto my right heel, propping up my otherwise fully-reclined body.






I managed to balance there, horizontally, just two inches above the ground, clutching my husband's arm for a whole hour—I mean second—as my knee screamed in pain and my husband screamed in annoyance.


"AAAAHHHH! CON-NEEEEEEEEE!"


"Quick, quick! Yank me up so I don't get muddy!" I squealed. Hubby yanked and I levered upright standing. It was quite the duet. And very NOT romantic. Nor very cossack-like, although I did manage to keep my wreath atop my noggin.


"Come on, come on!" Dan muttered. "It's freezing!"


"Wait. Now I need to go even slower because I really jammed my knee!"


"Great. This is SO STUPID!" (Told you—very NOT romantic.)


Once we found a semi-sheltered spot we realized that I had lost a candle somewhere in the leaves on the way down. Dan did a quick search and found it. Begrudgingly.


By this stage my crown (I had added a wreath of greenery to it) was cockeyed and had to be readjusted. And during the readjustment the greenery detached from the crown. This took me a while to fix while my husband stood shivering next to me. (Fortunately, my inadvertant dance move had actually warmed me up. I felt positively toasty. For about three minutes.)


Next came the lighting of the candles. It was NOT festive.


"Make sure you drop and roll if you catch on fire . . ."


"I will. Why do you think I wanted to do this in the snow?"


"Okay! All lit! POSE POSE POSE!"


"Wait! Don't take pictures yet . . . I don't want this background!

Then a small argument—I mean discussion—ensued about best place to stand for lighting versus backdrop. All the while, my husband was snapping highly-deletable photos while I was giving directions and making annoyed faces. It was NOT pretty.

Nor very Saint Lucia-like.


Finally I gave up and decided to just pose where I was standing. I think Dan had snapped about two photos when the inevitable occurred.


"STOP! STOP! HOT! HOT!"


"WHAT?"


"HOT! MY HEAD IS HOT! HOT WAX, HOT WAX! MY HEAD IS BURNING . . . IS IT ON FIRE????"




DAN MANAGED TO CAPTURE THE MOMENT THAT THE STRANGE SENSATION ON THE TOP OF MY HEAD TRANSLATED TO

"I FEEL SOMETHING BURNING!!!"



Dan dashed over to blow out the flames which, fortunately, were only on the candles and not my head.


Unfortunately, the hot wax WAS on my head. It was like getting pooped on by a dysenteric bird with a super-high fever. Dan hoisted the crown off my head and found a clump of wax on top of my head about the size of those big wax seals that kings stamped onto their letters in medieval times.


Now I'm a BIG FAN of wax seals and as a matter of fact, when I burned down my candles so the wicks would light quickly I actually used the wax drippings to make some seals to decorate Christmas packages.


But I draw the line at wax seals on hair.



SOME OF THE WAX SEALS I CREATED FROM CANDLE WAX

WHILE PREPPING THE WICKS.

(At least one aspect of my Saint Lucia shenanigans turned out pretty & romantic.)





WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT WAXING THEIR HAIR

THIS IS NOT WHAT THEY MEAN.



"GRRRRR-ate!" I whined as I tried (in vain) to peel off the glob of wax attached to my skull. "This will be fun to get out without pulling out a lot of hair."


"This whole thing is a stupid idea!" Dan growled. "You can't even see the flames in the daylight! You can only see them at night!"


"Oh, like we wanna attempt this photoshoot at night! Let's just try it again."


Dan sighed. Then shoved my crown back onto my head. (NOT gently I might add.)


"Alright but we are NOT lighting those candles again. I REFUSE to take the photos if you don't agree to take the pictures without the fire."


"But that defeats the purpose!"


"No flames or no photos! You can photoshop the fire in later."


"FINE!" I barked.


After mitigating the risk of me going out like Joan of Arc, the tension between us dissolved. We tried a few different spots for lighting and backdrop, all without further argument—I mean discussion. We even had fun.


And once we were totally frozen—I mean done—Dan walked me up the hill with no more tumbles.


And now that I'm an expert on Saint Lucia-ing, I wanted to offer my TIPZ for celebrating a safe, fire-hazard free Saint Lucy's Day.



TIP N0. 1

ALWAYS CARRY A FIRE EXTINGUISHER!

Or go fireless and photoshop the flames onto the candles later.

I did both because Dan was right: The flames didn't show up in the daylight.



TIP N0. 2


MAYBE DON'T POSE IN THE HIGHLY-FLAMMABLE WOODS

WHILE WEARING LIT CANDLES.

Pose in your shower instead.



TIP N0. 3


JUST LET YOUR GARDEN STATUE WEAR THE FLAMING CROWN.

But still keep the fire extinguisher handy.

And be prepared to scrape the wax out of its eye and nose later.





BEST TIP OF ALL:


DON'T TAKE YOUR SAINT LUCIA TIPZ FROM ME PEOPLE!

GET YOUR TIPZ FROM A REAL SCANDANAVIAN.


Clearly they have inherent abilities that I just do not possess.

Even their small children are capable of ambulating gracefully while wearing fiery crowns on their wee heads . . . WITH NO MISHAPS! WHILE SERVING FOOD!


Meanwhile my Saint Lucia skills fall more into the "burn water and wax my scalp" categories. Clearly I have no Viking genes whatsoever.


But come next year . . .


I'M GONNA NAIL THIS SAINT LUCIA THING!


(Or go out like Joan of Arc while trying. Stay tuned!)




PS: I THOUGHT I'D BETTER INCLUDE A TIP FOR GETTING CANDLEWAX OUT OF YOUR HAIR.


PACK ICE ON IT FOR SEVERAL MINUTES.

THEN GENTLY FLAKE IT OFF.


YES, YOU WILL LOOK LIKE YOU HAVE BIG CHUNKS OF DANDRUFF FOR A TIME.

BUT AT LEAST YOU GET TO KEEP ALL YOUR HAIR.


YOU'RE WELCOME.












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