My Swedish friends are celebrating the Feast of Santa Lucia, or Saint Lucy’s Day today. This festival of light is especially important during the darkest days of the year in Sweden. It’s said that if you truly celebrate Lucia, it will help you live through the long winter days with enough light.

santa lucia

In most schools workplaces and many homes a Lucia leads a procession of singing children carrying candles and singing specific songs. Lucia wears a long white robe and a wreath with candles on her head. All eat lussebulle (saffron buns) and laugh and visit afterward.

For Day 13 of Build a Better You, we are talking about rituals and how being flexible with traditions and rituals fosters connection and comfort.


Traditions foster close connections

Participating in cultural traditions such as a Santa Lucia procession can give us a feeling of love and belonging. Consensual group events flood us with good feelings and a sense of familiarity and belonging, which is why it’s included in my first aid kit for depression and anxiety. You open yourself to the possibility of making new friends when you join in, too.

It’s important to recognize that it is normal for rituals change over time. Why? Because the group changes over time. It expands, contracts, and introduces new elements to our rituals. During this time of year, it’s not uncommon for my clients to express frustration with unexpected shifts in traditions.

Rituals promote harmony and inclusiveness. The more people we include, the more input that is added.

We can either rigidly insist that things stay the same, or we can adapt. When something is rigid it is easily injured and you must be more careful with it. Holding our traditions fixed with no consideration for change sets us up for not enjoying that which is meant to be enjoyable.

Here’s a story.

The Christmas cookie tradition

When my children were younger, we continued my grandmother’s and mother’s ritual of baking cookies together during December. I would bake the cookies, and then my children would join me in the kitchen to decorate them. In my family, I bake the cookies and my children decorate them. It was a messy fun and cozy tradition for us as a family, with lots of laughing and fun.

Once my children became teenagers the ritual began to change. People came and went during the entire cookie time. Friends who dropped in decorated a cookie or two and then moved on. They would drop in, decorate a few cookies, but then leave.

The “rules” were being broken. It felt like total chaos but it sure was fun. Out of such chaos I felt overwhelmed by the change and I wondered was this the end to this tradition too? It turns out it wasn’t….it had evolved to a different place.

When I looked at my children’s friends’ cookies I discovered something. Their cookies were very creative as well as a memory of this friend and their individuality! And that was wonderfully fun. Now glögg has been introduced and babies making cookies and the change keeps on happening but the essence of togetherness and good humor remains intact and central.

My family group, like all groups, is expanding and changing and with them our traditions. However, our cut out cookies recipe has been passed down for several generations.

It’s the spirit, not the steps, of the ritual that are important

Families who practice being flexible in their rituals end up enjoying them more.

Maybe your family used to get together every Christmas Eve and have dinner together before opening presents. But now, your sister lives on the other side of the country and can’t make the trip because she’s with her husband’s family. So instead you get together on the 26th.

If a part of you resents and resists this change, remind yourself. What’s more important? Keeping the ritual rigidly intact, or seeing the family all together?

Join my family tradition

Just for fun I thought I’d include the recipe for the cookies my family and I make every year. Baking cookies together with friends and family can build a better you mentally and emotionally. As for physically? Don’t eat too many, and take a walk together afterward.

Sour Cream Cut-out Cookies

Cream together 1 cup (200 g) sugar with 1 cup (240 g) butter. Then add in 1 egg, 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla, and 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) nutmeg, although the nutmeg is optional.

In a separate bowl combine 3/4 cup (170 g) sour cream and 1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda. Let these sit together for a few minutes.

In another bowl combine 3 cups (360 g) flour (more if needed), 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder, and 3/4 tsp (3.57 mL) of salt.

Now combine everything together. Roll up the dough into a big ball and wrap in plastic wrap to chill over night in the refrigerator.

The next day, roll out the dough and cut into your favorite shapes with cookie cutters. Bake them at 375F/190C (some ovens may work better with a 350F/176C oven) for 8-10 minutes.


Let cool and then let the messy fun begin. Decorate with a simple white frosting and all kinds of cookie sprinkles. We like to use chocolate chips for eyes and buttons.

Cool and decorate with *white frosting and all kinds of cookie sprinkles.  We like to use chocolate chips for eyes and buttons.


If you make them…snap a picture and share with me on Pinterest!


Image Credit

Chorus with this Years Lucia of Trelleborg #Flickr12Days” by Flickr user Susanne Nilson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.