I’ve been doing this for ten years now.
Not making the lussekatter; that’s a tradition of longer standing. But writing about the making of the lussekatter every year. About doing the work of the dark of the year, singing the light back into the world while you make the saffron-rich bread. About Santa Lucia Day, how it comes before Solstice so there is more dark to come, and what that means to me. It’s the same every year. It’s different every year. Holidays are like that.
This year in particular I am so glad to have a ritual to fall back on, work that yields to patience and experience and knowledge. The long rise changed my life. This year I made a half-batch, carefully measuring the beaten egg into my tiniest measuring cup, pouring half of it into the dough and half down the drain. (I know. It would have been fine with a whole egg. But I want it the way it’s supposed to taste, not a slightly richer version.) And between the smaller mass of dough and the knowledge gained from years past, it was an easy knead, turning pliable almost as soon as I picked it up.
In addition to Christmas songs, I find myself singing other songs every year, whatever pops into my head. “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and “This Year” and whatever else feels appropriate. This year I discovered that what I was singing was Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble,” with a line I never really thought of before: “These are the days of miracle and wonder, and don’t cry, baby, don’t cry.” The days of miracle and wonder, we find out, are not the same as the days of ease and laughter. The days of miracle and wonder make us weep, and not just for joy. Not even mostly for joy.
Sometimes miracle and wonder come upon us all unawares. But sometimes we have to work for them. We have to work our asses off for them, and cry and despair and feel that we’ve come to the end of the line. And some of us have–I don’t want to pretend that it’s inevitable that we always win out, that we always come through the dark times. Sometimes it is just all too damn much. And the people around us, the people we turn to for help, may have reached their point of “all too damn much” in ways and for reasons that we don’t know or don’t understand.
And it’s so easy to feel distant from everyone we love, to see the distances and not the ways in which we’re close. It’s so easy to feel like we’re struggling alone instead of together. But it’s not true. Or it doesn’t have to be.
And still we try to carve out something beautiful, something fragrant and fine. Something we can give, something that connects us. Something miraculous and wonderful. Even in a year where the dark days have taken turns we never imagined. Especially in that kind of year. I’m struggling to remember which rabbi it was, what the exact wording was, who said that the work of the world is neither ours to complete nor ours to abandon. Not my tradition–but one of my truths. One of my great truths.
It’s time to sing the songs and bake the bread. It’s time to find our way kicking and screaming into miracle and wonder. And it’s time to do the work in the dark time to bring the light back into the world in the days ahead.
Happy Santa Lucia Day.
2007: http://mrissa.livejournal.com/502825.html and http://mrissa.livejournal.com/503100.html