When I was little I had the Kirsten American Girl Doll. Probably because my name is Kierstin. I do not look the Swedish part though. I have dark hair and hazel eyes and orange (not pink, orange) undertones to my skin.
So imagine my delight when some German heritage traits from my husband and myself decided to show themselves and give us a beautifully blonde haired and blue eyed little girl.
(Which is his family genetic trees will win the dominance battle: German or Peruvian?!?!)
I instantly began plotting our St. Lucia day celebrations…
After our first St. Lucia’s day you’d think I would’ve grown tired of this tradition. But I didn’t. I’ve loved it even more the past two years. At first I couldn’t comprehend why I love this part of Christmas so much.
I’m not Catholic, I’m not Swedish, I never celebrated it when I was little.
But when I think back on other Holiday traditions I love that I didn’t do when I was young, one thing really stood out. They’re all about women. Mary plays a big part in my life, a much bigger one than it ever did when I was young. So does St. Therese, and St. Joan of Arc, and St. Lucia.
I know the Catholic tradition is incredibly patriarchal but I do think they do a better job of giving women great role models. So at Christmas time, not only is St. Nick a prominent non-biblical person in our family, so it St. Lucia.
Jesus is, of course, still the forefront but Mary stands close behind.
I think I found it really hard as a child to relate to the Christian message when there were no women figures. To be honest, Christ’s sacrifice never meant a whole lot to me. I know that’s almost a sacrilegious thing to say but for me, History was full of men killing themselves in terrible ways. Jesus never really stood out in a significant way.
Mary on the other hand was someone I could understand right away. Her giving her son to a cause larger than herself, that is and always has been incredibly moving to me. The story of Mary and Martha is probably the one that I ruminate on most often in my day to day life.
Which I think is kind of the point. The reason we have these various figures in the Bible and after the Bible are to give us paths to find Christ. His message wont be received directly by every one, which is why each of us is tasked with the role of bringing him to to others.
So for me, St. Lucia’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate Christ’s Christmas spirit in the workings of women. It’s a great day to celebrate for young women, to remind us that each of us is tasked with the role of showing Christ’s love to each other, not just the men in fuzzy red suits.
I do have to admit….I do have a bit of a love for Scandinavia.
It really began accidentally. I was into a British colonial style when I was younger. You know, mahogany furniture with mosquito nets draped over them. A place where Ernest Hemingway would feel at home (In fact, Thomasville Furniture has a line of Hemingway inspired things that I absolutely adored).
The Bombay company was my favorite store (remember that place??)
By the way, I was like….10. I’m what happens when you let your children watch HGTV from a young age.
There is still quite a bit in our house that reflects this style. Once we moved into our 1920s home though, my style took a decidedly vintage turn. I began collecting the brightly colored kitchen linens that were popular from the 20s-50s. I bought this Duncan Phyfe style couch.
I began using bright colors and mixing them with more traditional pieces, as was popular during this time period. A couple of chrome Art Deco lamps made it into our house.
But then I realized something. My furniture that I so carefully picked out was getting destroyed. My kids are not concerned about making sure the shiny polish on the mahogany furniture doesn’t get smeared with sticky gobs of jelly, or scratched when someone decides to play with their toys on it.
And my husband was getting tired of “knick knacks.”
When needed a new style in our house. Something that was a bit more kid friendly, that I wouldn’t be upset about having to replace. Something simple and sturdy.
I really could have gone a couple ways on this but the thing that came about most organically was a Scandinavian style. If you look at Carl Larsson’s beautiful illustrations from the turn of the century you can see why.
Scandinavian style is full of bursts of color with sturdy, simple furniture and the frivolous kind of decorations that we usually think of in British and French styles.
It’s more comfortable and cozy than the french Provencal style and has the rustic attributes of American pioneers but still has such a wonderful sense of class and structure.
There is a great example of Scandinavian style from this period up in Michigan. It’s called the Swedish house and much of the style looks suspiciously like mine.
In fact, I’m pretty sure I have those same plates, which also sit on MY red gingham tablecloth.
The thing about finding your home style is that it’s completely useless if it doesn’t fit your needs. I will always like British Colonialism but we don’t live in the Virgin Islands. We need lots of warm blankets lying around and household plants that are more evergreen than tropical.
We have lots of plaid but we also have lots of dark wood, not pine. Our artwork is formal but our walls are painted in all kind of crazy, bright hues.
We may grow lavender but it’s indoors, in front of a window with what looks like a snowflake pattern.
Christmas is when the Scandinavian style becomes most obvious in our house.
I’ve purchased a lot of “natural” and red and white ornaments, which sit alongside the glass likenesses of Santa and sleighs and fir trees.
We pick wild juniper and rose hips to go under the garland cut outs of Dala Horses.
My Matryoshka Dolls sit right above the more English presents under the tree.
I suppose if there could be a conclusion to this post it would be that sometimes you just have to let yourself evolve into what suits you the best. If I had to guess my future with my husband when we began dating it would look much more….southern, I guess….than what it is now. Our children would have had dark hair and dark skin and our home would be full of that wonderful English colonial style, a blend of Old World and New World, which could be metaphoric of our two families coming together. We’d probably move to someplace like Savannah.
As it is, my husband is much more German than even my own family and our little Ohio home is more comfortably situated with it’s surroundings than I initially would have guessed.
Whether it is family traditions or the family home, allow yourselves as a family to evolve naturally in a way that gives you an opportunity to see who you really are, not just what you think you should be.