The United States is made up of people who immigrated here from all over the world. Some came a long time ago, some more recently. All of us are Americans, who have “melted” together into one culture. But many of us have kept the traditions of our ancestors alive, especially when it comes to foods and holiday celebrations. And that’s what makes our culture so rich and interesting!
“Being Lucia,” by Molly O’Toole, the featured story from our January/February 2015 issue, introduces us to the Swedish holiday St. Lucia’s Day. Like Christmas and Hanukkah, St. Lucia’s Day falls near the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year), and it shares a love of light with the other winter holidays. St. Lucia’s Day has its own song—the St. Lucia song—and its own treats—homemade Lucia buns. When a daughter turns thirteen, she plays the part of St. Lucia. She wears a white dress with a red sash, and a wreath with seven candles in it. She serves Lucia buns and coffee to the adults in the family, while her siblings walk behind her, singing the song.
Author Molly O’Toole and illustrator Ravela Smyth have done a wonderful job of recreating the beauty of the holiday and the excitement a young girl feels when she gets to be Lucia for the first time. Notice all the ways in which Molly shows her main character’s anticipation. She “springs out of bed,” her stomach is doing “flip-flops.” It’s like “waiting in line at the amusement park; waiting for hours and hours. But finally you get to go on the ride, and it’s the most amazing and exhilarating roller coaster that you will ever go on in your whole life.” And at the end of the story, we’re right there with Elizabeth as her “eyes fill with tears” and she feels as if she is “melting away into the bright candle surroundings, and everywhere is light.”
Did your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents immigrate to the United States from another country? Has your family kept some holiday traditions alive from the old country? Think about what those traditions mean to you, then put pencil to paper (or keyboard to monitor). Give the reader the details he or she needs to feel what you feel, your excitement and joy, as your family celebrates in its own way.