she who keeps this diary

13 December 2005 - 10:22 AM

Where Your Ancestors Are Buried

The space-time continuum was warped, the furniture now all fits, and the Viking is pacified. Which is good, because it's the 13th of December, the Feast of Saint Lucy, and you know what that means.

Scandinavian Bakefest '05

And I don't have time for anything that's going to interfere with my kitchen time. Bakefest is serious business.

Had I truly been with it I would have started last night, or maybe even over the weekend. But the weekend was spent bending the fabric of space to make big furniture fit in my small house (see above) and last night I had to make something to bring to the office Christmas party. And I was low on flour. Hard to make lussekatter without flour.

So I'll make lussekatter tonight, and maybe mandelflarn if I'm feeling enthusiastic. Or I could save cookies for the weekend and do the mandelflarn and pepparkakor both on Saturday. Mmm, and drommar. Need to bust out the recipe for those.

But the lussekatter will be made tonight, because this is the Feast of Saint Lucy, and you can't have the day go by without lussekatter. These things must be done; the rites of the season must be observed. It's tradition that binds us together as a people, Sis would say, and she'd pound her fist on the tabletop and raise clouds of flour while she did it.

. . .

Near the beginning of the movie 'The Last Emperor,' there's a scene where the young emperor meets the Scotsman (played by Peter O'Toole) who's been imported to be his tutor. After the tutor explains his plans for the imperial education, he gives the emperor a chance to ask questions. The first question, asked promptly, is 'where are your ancestors buried?'

(In traditional China, it didn't matter where the imperial civil service sent you, or if indeed you spent your whole life someplace far from your ancestral home. When you died, you were sent home to be buried with your ancestors.)

My dad always liked that scene, liked the question, liked the importance that was placed on knowing where your ancestors were buried. He liked it when my sister and I showed an interest in his family -- our family -- and our Swedish heritage. He made a point, on one of the last trips we made to Chicago together, to take us to visit all the cemeteries where our ancestors, grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, are buried. He made a point, too, of keeping track of the oral history his father had recorded, about where those grandparents and great-grandparents had come from, and the places their ancestors were buried, from the city of Gothenburg in Sweden to fishing villages on the Danish islands of Fyn and Lolland.

And he liked it when I baked at Christmastime, liked seeing his daughter make the same breads and cookies his grandmother had made. I remember one of the last Christmases before he died, I was home from Scotland, and spent a Saturday afternoon making julkaka. He'd been napping upstairs, but showed up in the kitchen just as the loaves came out of the oven. 'I smell julkaka,' he yawned. 'Have you made coffee yet?'

And so I make lussekatter on the Feast of Saint Lucy. Because my dad liked it when I baked at Christmas, and because he didn't want me to forget where my ancestors are buried.

God Jul

verso - recto

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