St. LucyA busy mom of young children shares her thoughts on celebrating feast days in ways that work for her family, even if the celebrations aren’t perfect.

This year marks our first St. Lucy Day as a family of 6. On this day, it is traditional for the oldest daughter to serve her family special sweet buns by candlelight in the morning. Since we have a Lucy in our household, we feel we ought to mark the occasion somehow. Lucy may only be older than her twin sister by 40 minutes, but she believes it still can just tell when you talk with her.

The year that Lucy and her sister were born, we said, "Oh, it's St Lucy Day. We should probably do something." The twins were not quite 3 months old, and we also had a 3 year old. Our celebration that year consisted of changing lots of diapers, rocking and nursing. Those things took all day. There simply wasn't time for anything else.

The next year, we had (a little) more time, and I fully intended to do something for St. Lucy Day. Unfortunately, it fell the day after the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and we were all tired from celebrating that night. I had planned to make the special St. Lucy bread and have it in the morning. When that didn't happen, I thought I'd make it during nap time and have it with soup for dinner.

It turns out, though, on that particular day I was the kind of mom who chooses to go for a 5 mile run (on the treadmill) during nap time instead of baking special St. Lucy bread for my daughter's name saint day. I suspect (okay, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt) that my family had a better evening because of my 5 miler than they would have if I had made the bread, no matter how well it turned out. Every mother runner (and probably her husband and children) knows that Grouchy Mommy in the morning + run at naptime = Better, Happier Mommy in the evening. Grouchy Mommy baking bread...well, that's not quite as predictable.

We had no special St. Lucy bread that year. Although life with twins got a lot easier in the course of a year, time was still so limited. Even now, I have my hands full with the basic care and feeding of the people in my house…I just don’t always have time to put saffron threads in the bread like the traditional recipe says to do. I know many of you understand where I’m coming from.

Instead of soup and special bread that night, we spontaneously put everyone in pajamas, hopped in the car, went through the drive-thru at McDonald's, and ate in the car while we drove around town looking at Christmas lights. We ended up outside of town in Shenandoah National Park to catch sight of a few of the Geminids in the hours before the meteor shower peaked, then came home and put everyone to bed a little later than usual. We told ourselves it was a perfect way to celebrate St. Lucy, whose name means “light.”

The next morning, having had no official St. Lucy festivities, we celebrated St. Lucy quickly at breakfast in a way that worked for us. I made a can of cinnamon rolls (the bake fast method, where you spread them out on the cookie sheet - it took less than 10 minutes). We stuck some leftover birthday candles in them and lit them. I quickly made a wreath for Lucy's head out of pipe cleaners and put some more candles in that. (I did not light them.)

Throw in some smiley kids, and there you have it – instant feast day celebration.

The nicest thing about family traditions, particularly when you are trying to start them, is that they are flexible. They can be adapted to suit the situation in which you find yourself. I am a devout observer of traditions, but I’m not very tolerant of rigidity. I grew up in a blended family with stepsiblings who were not always with us on the calendar date of major holidays. Sometimes we celebrated a day before everyone else we knew and sometimes a day after. My mom's favorite phrase during these times was, "We'll just need to play it by ear." I remember all of us skating around the neighborhood in our brand new rollerblades, telling our confused neighbors that Santa had already been to our house when Christmas was still two days away. We were flexible...and it was fine. It all turned out okay.

Things change, and our traditions need to be able to change, too. Traditions are only as good as they make us feel, and if we stress ourselves out and get all weepy over how things aren't going the way we wanted them to, the tradition is serving itself instead of our families. That's not good for anyone.

This year, we have a new baby in the house. He’s a lovely, agreeable guy, but I’m still too tired to do any serious baking right now. I’m not sure how we’ll celebrate St. Lucy this year, but I’m almost certain it will not be with traditional saffron threaded bread before sunup. It might even be cinnamon raisin biscuits from the closest fast food restaurant. Whatever it is, I know the children will remember that we had a special breakfast with candles, and I know Lucy will feel special that she shares a name with “her” saint. To me, that’s more important than having a perfect celebration.

This is what it looks like when we build traditions from the ground up. It's not always perfect, it's not always Pinterest-ing...but it is always worth doing, anyway. We're building a foundation for our families, for our children. We're laying the groundwork for memories and celebrations in years to come. It is enough just to start something, even if it's something out of a can instead of from scratch.

A happy St. Lucy Day to all of you- a day late and slightly imperfect, but still just as meaningful.

Copyright 2014 Abbey Dupuy