CELEBRATION OF LIGHT

My Three Lucia Figurines

TODAY (13th December) nearly every home, school, hospital, factory, workplace, church, hotel and restaurant in Sweden is celebrating LUCIA.

Lucia is the Bringer of Light and is celebrated on what, in the old almanac, was the darkest day of the year. The day is one of light, hope and love. The tradition has its roots in St. Lucia of Syracuse who died as a martyr in AD304.

Whilst the dark holds its firm grip on night, households across the country waken and quietly prepare. The long white gowns will have been carefully ironed the day before, the red sash belts laid out, candles and matches placed at the ready.

Lucia herself carries a crown of candles on her head. These are often now battery powered but not too long ago normal wax candles were used. The crown was placed on a damp handkerchief on the head. As the wax melted onto the damp fabric, a sizzling sound could be heard by those closest.

As well as Lucia there are her attendants, tärnor, who are dressed in white gowns with a silver glitter circle on their heads and carrying a lit candle.

In the later years a place was also made for boys, mainly as Star boys, stjärngossar, wearing a white gown, a conical hat with a star and carrying a silver star stave. Recently younger boys are also dressed as gingerbread men.

The hushed bustle of the waiting crowd falls to stillness and into the darkness comes Lucia and her train, the glittering light from the candles heralding her visit, traditional songs sending a dusting of heaven across the darkness.

At this point men, women and children are tear-eyed.

As the Lucia train approaches the songs ring light and clear. One is ‘Sankta Lucia’, which is the song that epitomises Lucia. Its evocative tones weave their way into everyone’s soul.  ‘Sankta Lucia’ is the first song on the video below which shows Lucia celebrations from around Sweden. 

Here is the translation of the first verse:

‘The darkness lies weightily
on fields and cottages
in places forgotten by the sun
the shadows brood.
Into our dark homes She steps
with lighted candles on her head
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.’

The spirits continue to soar as Lucia and her attendants come to a halt, either at the front of a larger gathering or if at a home, in front of the rest of the family.


Now other festive songs lilt their way across the break of morning, the star boys even having their own solo performance. The mystical magical aura shimmers in the candlelight, spreading across the nation.

Being Sweden no festive occasion would be complete without its own traditional fare.

Particular for this day are Lussekatter (Lucia Kitten Buns), which are made with saffron.

Also on offer are pepparkakor (cinnamon/ginger biscuits). Although many in Sweden now buy theirs, we still make ours and here are some we (my mother, son and I) have made in earlier years.

Finally on offer for this early morning feast is the special braided Luciabröd (Lucia Bread). To drink there is either coffee, milk or for the more daring a cup of julglögg.

Please, join me today, on this special Lucia day for a cup of coffee or glögg. Help yourself to Pepparkakor. 

A few of you might recognise this revised post from 2015 although I hope you will enjoy it just as much now as then! For various reasons recently I have been unable to blog as much as usual, hence today’s post.

However, I could not fail to mark this very special day and the above sums up the history, songs, occasion, culinary delights of this festive day perfectly.

May Light be with you all this Holiday Season and I wish you peace, joy and enjoyment in the coming days and weeks.

I leave you with an unusual and beautiful Lucia video which I came across … when you have a few moments to spare I am sure you will be equally captivated by it. Happy Lucia!


‘TWIXT THE CUP AND THE LIP *

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Sometimes we don’t need to travel far to journey a long way.

With a publication agreed weeks ago it was with a song in my heart and a dance in my step that I prepared for this major event in my life.

My first book was due out in the world!!

A wonderful celebratory party away was planned…local to us all but a special place to be spoilt and dine in style!

As the date for publication drew closer, delay followed delay and to my shame, lowered my spirits. Worst of all was the lack of communication from the producer and broken promises. In my naive trust, I waited and believed. Until now. At last, our cooperation had to be terminated.

As for the celebratory weekend – I was all set to cancel. My family refused to accept this, insisting that after all the book is ready; apart from the elusive cover! (And final proofread before publication!)

So we set out to celebrate life and what has been achieved – I hope you’ll join me in reliving the wonderful weekend.

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It’s not easy to get anywhere high up in Essex…it’s a pretty flat county but Wivenhoe Park is situated on top of a hill and it is here that Wivenhoe House was built. Wivenhoe House’s fascinating history stretches back to 1759 when Isaac Rebow asked Thomas Reynolds to build the mansion house, which is now Grade II listed.

Stepping out of the car we admired the same landscape painted by the English Romantic artist John Constable in 1816.

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The building escaped mostly unscathed apart from a few broken chimney pots following the country’s worst earthquake in 1884, was requisitioned by troops during WWII before becoming the original home to Essex University in 1964. It is now a hotel.

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The university campus is close by in the park, the tall 1960s tower blocks iconic and for the first time ever I wander amongst them, past a delightful library full (!) of students, past a modern theatre, into the main campus site.

 

Lakes and fountains adorned the area; ducks and coots pecking amiably on the cold ground. A stunning sunset greeted us and we paused to let the peace and beauty sink in – not too long though as the bitter chill bit through our coats.

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Heading round we realised how hungry we were on seeing this unusual cafe…a Routemaster double-decker bus cafe – closed alas but probably just as well as dinner was soon.

The hotel was impeccable with friendly staff who were eager to help. The bedrooms were superb.

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The balcony overlooking the park was a bonus – even if it was too cold to use the welcoming table and chairs.

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The brassiere dining room was delightful and we were welcomed by the sommelier who recommended his original cocktails. How could we refuse! By the end of the evening, my spirits rose even further when presented with the ‘Congratulations’ platter.

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The next morning we just had time for another walk around the grounds; this time to hunt out the two famous cork oak saplings which had been smuggled into the country in the boots of General Redbow following the Peninsular War. What had they witnessed in their two hundred year existence, I wondered?

These impressive trees were both enthralling and majestic; languidly they grew along the ground as well as upwards, their trunks dramatically pock-marked and small leaves reaching in bunches for the sky.

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Gazing at the trees I felt a certain sense of calm for the first time in weeks…their strength and timeless aura transcended my worries and concerns. During this trip, I once again became re-aligned, my inner journey to renewed energy and belief reignited during our short sojourn.

Finally, my deepest apologies to you all…your warm, generous and enthusiastic support for the publication of my short story collection has been overwhelming and it has been hardest to let you down. I hope you will bear with me and kindly ask for your patience until the launch of my book.

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Supermoon photo taken through the trees in the evening.

‘Painting is but another word for feeling.’ John Constable.

I would just substitute the word painting with writing in this case!

Photo ©Annika Perry, except the Constable painting of course!!

*There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip is a very old proverb, similar in meaning to “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”. It implies that even when a good outcome or conclusion seems certain, things can still go wrong. (Wikipedia)

CORKS ARE FLYING!

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Dear Friends, are you all ready to duck? The champagne corks are ready to pop! It’s time to celebrate! I have completed the first draft of my novel!  

It was with euphoria and numb shock that I wrote the last word on my first draft this week. Euphoria as I finally achieved my lifelong dream of completing a book. Numb as the hard work abruptly came to an end. I floundered from over-work and the loss of my main focus of the last twelve months.

Without all your help, support, advice and encouragement here on wordpress I know I would never have persevered and reached this point. You all kept me going in this isolated insular world of writing – your warm, kind words providing a real boost, your advice so welcome and positive and above all your friendship offering a spiritual lift. A heartfelt THANK YOU to you all.

What now?

20160205_125224First of all, my self-imposed deadline for this week was as a result of it being my mother’s  birthday this weekend. Always my biggest fan and strongest advocate of my writing, I wanted to present her with a printed version of my first manuscript as a special present. As a way of saying thank you – for always believing in me; for being there when I doubted myself.

Printing? 

This point was raised by fellow blogger a while back and I realised she was right – the cost can become prohibitive and may not always give the best quality. 

20160205_125233Inspired I remembered an advert in my son’s school magazine and on Friday I headed down to their printing department.  For a fraction of the cost at under £ 4 (under $6) they printed the manuscript double-sided and bound it as well. 

It was great feeling to hold the manuscript in my hands at the printers. Inside myself I was bopping around whilst in real life I shyly held the printed material. 

Recently I saw an interview with a successful writer and she said how many writers, including herself, had difficultly saying what she did for work as she felt a ‘fraud’. As my book was being put together I felt the same on its first outing to strangers. The printer only glanced at it but even so, my heart thumped heavily.  

This is only the beginning. I am under no illusions and am fully aware that the hard work starts now! Revisions, editing, scrutinising, re-writing.

20160205_125351First though I will set the manuscript aside for a week or two. Out of sight, in a drawer. This universally accepted procedure is a necessity and I understand why. My book and I need a break from each other. In ten days I’m off to Sweden for a short break so this suits well and upon my return I will start work on it; refreshed, re-energised.

In the meantime, I’m studying and reading in more detail than ever all about self-publishing v. traditional publishing methods. I will make my decision in due course.  As always I welcome your help and comments. 

Please join me in a toast. 

Cheers! Skål! Prost! ¡Salud!  Yamas!  Salud! 

Finally, I would like to end  this post with a quote from Stephen King, where he talks about writing.

‘I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.’

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

New Years Eve Is Celebrated In London With A Huge Firework Display

Like so many of you I have celebrated the Christmas holidays with joy and togetherness. 

It also showed me the truth that we all want to give both gifts and smiles. Sharing is essential to the human spirit. 

I could not enter the NEW YEAR of 2016 without wishing all of you around the world a real HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Thank you for being there, for sharing.

So please, join me in the song below and why not in a Merry Dance too.

Auld Lang Syne is Scottish and mean “Times gone by”