Books for St. Lucia's Day

Detail from St. Lucia Day
by Carl Larsson, 1908

St. Lucia's Day occurs each year on December 13. If you're not familiar with the holiday, it's a Christian feast day for St. Lucia, and it is most widely celebrated in Scandinavia. Lucia is supposed to bring the light to the darkest time of the year, and in traditional Swedish celebrations a young girl dresses as Lucia in a white dress with a crown of candles and brings lussekatter buns and coffee to her parents early in the morning.

I don't have any Scandinavian ancestry as far as I know, but I've always thought that the traditions of St. Lucia's Day are quite lovely and try to do something to mark the day each year. As can probably be guessed by the fact that I'm an avid reader, my own St. Lucia's Day observations typically involve books. The two I've selected to share with you today are both Christmas-themed and come from Swedish authors, so while they don't feature St. Lucia's Day in particular they're a fun way to learn a little bit about what traditional Scandinavian Christmases were like.

Peter and Lotta are celebrating their first Christmas since coming to live with their Uncle Blue, Aunt Green, Aunt Brown, and Aunt Lavendar, and it's quite an exciting time. They get to pick out their tree with Uncle Blue, sing and dance around it, and even get a visit from the Christmas Goat (whose trousers coincidentally resemble Uncle Blue's quite a bit!). While the Christmas Goat frightens the children at first, they quickly become interested in him and his story--a story that continues to fascinate them all through the year until next Christmas comes. This seasonal story is on the longer side for a picture book, making it a good pick for readers in between the picture book and chapter book age groups. Readers of all ages will appreciate Beskow's gorgeous watercolor illustrations and the fascinating glimpse into alternative Christmas traditions.

Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren

This lovely picture book from the author of the Pippi Longstocking series features a group of children from three neighboring farms in Noisy Village. The children all love Christmas, and recount their holiday activities such as baking gingersnap cookies, bringing in wood for the fire, dancing around the Christmas tree, and playing Christmas games. Like Peter and Lotta's Christmas, Christmas in Noisy Village is a longer-length picture book and thus is good for transitional readers. Also like Peter and Lotta, Christmas in Noisy Village is full of lively illustrations and wonderful details of how Swedish Christmases were celebrated in times past.