Kirsten's Surprise

Written by Janet Beeler Shaw; illustrated by Renee Graef

Published in 1986


Christmas is fast approaching, and Kirsten is growing more impatient for the things in their trunk, still stored ten miles away in Maryville. She's missing the family left behind in Sweden, and longs for the things they made, to help her feel close to the people she'll never see again. She tells her cousins about the Swedish tradition of St. Lucia Day, and the girls all want to participate in the tradition...but the things for are in the Larsons' trunk. Everyone's too busy preparing the farm for winter to get the trunk. Hopeful that the trunk will be fetched in time, Kirsten and her cousins go ahead with what preparations they can: a woven wreath of grapevines and evergreens for a crown, with some candles borrowed from Miss Winston.

The day before St. Lucia Day, Kirsten's father is able to fetch the trunk! Kirsten comes with him. She turns out to be invaluable when a blizzard hits as they head back to the farm. The horse needs to be lead through the snow drifts, and Kirsten has to take on that duty after her father falls and twists his knee badly. As you'd expect in a blizzard, the swirling wind and snow disorient them, and soon they're off track. But Kirsten quickly realizes that they've come to area where Singing Bird used to live. She remembers a nearby cave, and they wait out the storm inside it. It's a short storm, and the sky is clear that night. 

They arrive home about four in the morning, the time that St. Lucia Day festivities are supposed to start. Kirsten, Anna, and Lisbeth quickly get Kirsten ready to play the part of St. Lucia while Miss Winston distracts the others. Everyone is thrilled with the surprise.

Looking Back

This time, the historical supplement is about the various Christmas traditions that immigrants brought to the United States, like Christmas trees from Germany and candles in the windows, a Swedish tradition. The traditions had to be adapted to the New World. For example, there would be turkey to eat in North America.

I'm surprised it doesn't mention that Christmas wasn't a federal holiday until 1870, and not a day off for federal employees outside of the nation's capitol until 1885, although some states had it as an official holiday. (For those curious about church and state issues: Christmas had already had a long history as a secular holiday in both America and Europe; many Protestant churches didn't even recognize it as a religious observance in the 19th century. Catholics started celebrating it as a big deal around the fourth century to emphasis the human nature of Jesus.)


Again, dedicated to Nadina Fowler, and autographed.

I was surprised at first that Kirsten and her father would attempt to go home through a snowstorm (it's not a blizzard as they leave, but trending that way). I was thinking of The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and how people would shelter in place. But the Ingalls had been through a rough winter already; this is the Larsons' first winter in Minnesota.

Kirsten thinks to herself that it must be late if the moon has set. The moon doesn't always rise at night and set in the morning. A full moon is opposite the sun (rising as the sun sets and vice versa), but a new moon will rise and set with the sun. As the moons move through its phases it rises and sets at various times of the day or night.

And after reading the Looking Back section, I want eggnog. Good thing I have some in the fridge.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the Larsons being from Sweden are used to blizzards? I don't know but Minnesota blizzards can be harsh.

Love the St. Lucia stuff, my family used to do that a few generations back too!

SJSiff said...

That's not a bad point. Sweden probably does get decent winters!

The St. Lucia celebration always seemed so cool to me.