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“We’ll do what’s necessary, ’cause even a miracle needs a hand.”

It is Santa Lucia morning, and my house smells of yeast and saffron and hope.

Earlier this week, my friend’s son C’s class at school was learning about late-year holidays from different traditions, religious and non-religious. C is 7, and my friend commented that he didn’t understand why his family couldn’t celebrate all the things. And I thought about it, and I said, “…I don’t understand either.” Clearly you will behave differently when you’re making your own religious observance than when you are honoring the fact that other people do, but…holidays good. I am with C: let us have holidays.

But I did eventually figure out why not, and that is because C is 7, so he can’t do the work of making these holidays, and he is one of seven kids, so his parents kind of have full plates already. And I love the lussekatter–I love taking flour and butter and sugar and saffron and making light and hope in the dark of winter. But after the knead I kind of wanted to go back to bed myself, and I’m not 7. Sometimes joy just shows up naturally, but sometimes it’s hard work. Sometimes you have to chase down joy and club it repeatedly to subdue it and drag it back to your lair.

My mother’s favorite Christmas special is “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” the one with the wee mousies. And it has a song in it that is very much what she wanted to teach me, I think, about working and planning for the miracles you want to see in the world.

It’s very dark. It’s very, very cold. And there are sides of the dark and the cold we don’t even tell each other. But I have done battle with the dough and emerged triumphant, and victory is tasty indeed.

Happy Santa Lucia Day.

The first one in 2006. 2007, the beginning of the story. 2007, the end of the story. 2008. 2009. 2010. 2011. Last year.

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