Growing up, I LOVED Santa Lucia Day, the Swedish celebration of light in a very dark time of year.
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We didn't do much to celebrate it, but as the oldest daughter in a part-Swedish family, I loved how it connected me to my heritage and loved the stories I heard from relatives in Sweden about the joyous occasion it is each year.
The only thing is, my mother wouldn't let us wear real candles in our hair. As a mother myself now, I totally understand her hesitation, but as a ten-year-old who wanted to celebrate the occasion right, I was always disappointed.
So, this year, I set out to make a real Santa Lucia crown with candles with my daughter (who just happens to have a Swedish name and look oh-so-much like the Swedish / Dutch / German heritages from which she originates). It was fun project, but since I am absolutely, not-by-any-stretch-of-the-imagination a crafty person, I'm sure many of you will come up with more creative ways to do this!
How to Make a Santa Lucia Wreath / Crown with Candles
Materials you will need:
- A wreath base (see below for options)
- Green florist's wire or garden wire
- Needlenose pliers
- Fresh evergreen clippings
- Fresh red berry bush sprigs (such as lingonberry)
- 4-8 white taper candles, preferably dripless
Choose a base
Start by measuring the wearer's head.
Then, either create or purchase a base that will fit comfortably and securely. I used a plain, pre-made grapevine wreath, but you could use any number of things for this: a wire wreath base, an old wire hanger, a styrofoam wreath base, or an old Christmas wreath you're not using anymore.
Notch the candles
Using a nail, a knife, or any other sharp object, create a horizontal notch on two sides of each candle about an inch from the bottom. This helps secure the candle to the wreath as you wrap the wire around. You can somewhat see the notch I made in this close-up:
Attach the candles
I found it easiest to attach the candles, then arrange the greens around them to hide the wire. However, if you prefer to add greens first, then nestle the candles in, feel free.
Place each candle on a somewhat flat part of the wreath, preferably somewhat inset in the base, if possible.
Cut two 1-foot sections of wire, weave them into the base, then wrap them around the base of the candle to firmly secure it in place. It can be seriously helpful to have an assistant hold the candle while you wrap! Make sure that when the candle is secured, it is perfectly straight and upright.
Continue until all the candles are secured in place. I was only able to fit four onto my wreath (okay, I'll be honest, I only had the patience for four….) but traditionally, there are 6-8 candles.
Weave in the greens and berries
Weave the evergreen cuttings into the wreath base, attaching with wire if necessary to make them secure. Make sure to tuck in or snip off any ends that might poke the wearer's head.
Once the greens are fully and firmly in place, set the red berry sprigs in place. As you can tell from the photos, we didn't have any red berries, so we skipped it. In Sweden, lingonberry cuttings are used, but any red berry will do. It's just for the festive burst of color.
Light the candles and celebrate!
Light the candles, then place on the wearer's head while you sing carols and eat sweet Santa Lucia buns – or at least just snap a few photos!
And depending on the freshness of your cuttings, you'll likely need to use the Santa Lucia crown within a day or two or the greens may become dry and droopy. If you are wanting one that will last a bit longer, consider finding some realistic-looking fake greens. If it will keep your sanity, it's totally legit.