Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Saint Lucy’s Feast


A commenter from the You Tube version of this lovely holiday says:

The tradition of Lucia in Sweden is a mix of pre-christian and Christan customs. According to the Julian calender, December 13 (Dec 21 in the Gregorian calendar) was the longest night of the year — The Winter Solstice.

When Sweden transfered to the Gregorian calendar in 1753 we kept December 13 as the day to celebrate the night of Lussi. Later on we “imported” Saint Lucia as the bringer of light and incorporated her into our own traditions.


John Donne, by consensus the greatest of the Metaphysical Poets, said it somewhat differently. When I reminded the Baron it was Saint Lucy’s Day, he began to recite Donne’s poem. I asked him to look it up for me (unless of course he wanted to recite it for our readers??).

The poetically impaired (you know who you are) can skip this part:

A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day

by John Donne 1572–1631


‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world’s whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;
I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
Of all that’s nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)
Of the first nothing the elixir grown;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; all, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light and body must be here.

But I am none; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival,
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The Baron says that memorization of this poem (but with the old spellings) was one of the many hurdles of his A-Level examinations. Thus, I mention Saint Lucy to him and get the full and fulsome recitation of Donne’s Nocturnal. He says that Donne’s wife had died and losing her was the source of his suffering in this work.

It is a wonderment to me that the effort to create an aesthetic distance between us and our deepest griefs can provide, briefly, a sense of peace. And so, down through the ages, others come upon those efforts and are comforted in turn.

Be sure to look up the recipe for Saint Lucy’s buns. I can’t bear to do so since we can’t eat them anymore.

Don’t forget the saffron.

9 comments:

Pleistarchos said...

The first time that my grave concern about the flood of Muslim immigration turned to a realization that the situation was far worse than I had thought was a series of riots at the time of St Lucia's Feast several years ago. I can't recall with certainty what city it was but I am pretty sure that it was Malmo. The articles and videos that I found showed an ugly picture of arson and attacks on police and fire personnel. One could not avoid concluding that those who initiated the riots chose St. Lucia's day for a reason. They seek to eliminate all practices of a country that are hallowed by time but have nothing to do with Islam.

Egghead said...

Ah, look at the few few minutes of this 2010 video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et_ZXk3zzpg&feature=player_embedded#!

The young lady chosen to represent Saint Lucia looks positively South American!

Clearly, the classic image of the blonde blue-eyed Swede is to be 'progressed' into a dark-haired dark-eyed exotic-looking beauty.

From Wikipedia: "Although no sources of her life exist other than in hagiographies, St. Lucy is believed to have been a Sicilian saint who suffered a martyr's death in Syracuse, Sicily around AD 310."

Perhaps the show producers were intending for the young lady to look Italian, but her appearance is much more South American than Italian. To me, the young lady does NOT even appear European.

The traditional Scandinavian image is that of a angelic long-haired blonde blue-eyed girl bearing the candle wreath on her head.

Da Capo said...

JENNY SONESSON dr.ph. and New Swedens leading queen of GENDER SCIENCE (genusvetenskap) propagetes for male Lucias.
No more Sancta Lucia - maybe Sanct Lucifer insted?
This stupid, uncorrect old (see Google) custom will have to change, according to Ms Jenny Sonesson.
The light-queen must not be performed by females ONLY, also males shall be given the possibility to wear
a candle-crown and being light-queen.
Best of all, if the light-queen could be performed by a black boy from south of Sahara whose woice is breaking?

Sankta Lucia, ljusklara hägring,
sprid i vår vinternatt ljus av din fägring.
Drömmar med vingesus under oss sia,
tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia.
Kom i din vita skrud, huld med din maning.
Skänk oss, du julens brud, julfröjders aning.
Trollsejd och mörkermakt ljust du betvingar,
signade lågors vakt skydd åt oss bringar.
Stjärnor som leda oss, vägen att finna,
bli dina klara bloss, fagra prästinna.
Drömmar med vingesus, undret oss sia,
tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia.
- - - - -
In English (the translation is poor):
Saint Lucia, bright clear mirage,
spread in our winter splendor of your beauty.
// Dreams with wings rustling, over us prophesy,
light your white candles, Santa Lucia. //

Get your white robe, gracious with your call.
Give us, you Christmas Bride, an idea of Christmas.
// Dreams with wings rustling over us prophesy,
light your white candles, Santa Lucia. //

Can be seen and heard here:

http://youtu.be/YBqoPtoeSAc

The Santa Lucia pageant at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco
http://youtu.be/OoX6jRUy8lA

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you are Swedish Egghead but if you aren't I'd have to congratulate you on a spot-on observation. In many St. Lucia elections, blonde girls are generally being avoided since using a person with a typical "swedish" appearance somehow would be racist.
Boys have also been known to be electable in a typical swedish "equality up to and beyond any reasonable limits" attempt. I must admit to being surprised that swedish legislators havent passed a law giving men the right to give birth and women the right to grow beards yet. It will come though.

Konservator said...

Egghead, Anonymous 21:32:

Well, now we've gone and done it. Sweden's national Lucia for 2011 is:
Aida Lindqvist-Normohammadi

"[Her] special dream is to be able to contribute to an improvement of the situation of women in Iran."

No, it's no (intentional) joke, it's for real.

Egghead said...

Thanks for the affirmation of my observation. Being an American, I was worried that I might be wrong - but thinking that I might be right.

How interesting that Aida above wants to help her fellow Iranian women - from her safe perch in Sweden.

And, what EXACTLY pray tell, does Aida want to help the perfect followers of Mohammed with?

Surely Aida must want to help the Iranian women conquer 'poverty' - caused by Western non-Muslim infidels like Swedes - because 'everyone' knows that even the mildest criticism of Islam is completely forbidden.

Or, perhaps Aida would be willing to help the perfectly persecuted non-Muslim infidel women in Iran?

Inquiring minds want to know....

Anonymous said...

«The tradition of Lucia in Sweden is a mix of pre-christian and Christan customs.»

why are the counterjihad bloggers anti-christian? who is behind it?

Chiu said...

Okay, that European Christmas traditions are generally a mixture of pre-christian and Christian elements isn't "anti-christian", it's a simple matter of historical fact. No true Christian is bothered by the fact that there were traditions before Christianity and Christians didn't exterminate them the way, say, Muslims or Communists might have. While the accretion of "tolerance" as some kind of ultimate, overriding virtue is a flat denial of core Christian values, the truth remains that Christianity is (and always has been) a very tolerant religion.

There is nothing wrong with noting that fact, nor pointing out a particular historical example in the origins of the tradition of Lucia. At least, not from a Christian perspective.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Anonymous said...

are generally a mixture of pre-christian and Christian

exaggeration.