The Time Ella Decided to Celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day and It Went Horribly, Horribly Wrong

I have always been fascinated by other cultures. It doesn’t matter whether the difference is extreme, say fashion, religion, food, or minute, like the shape of their electrical sockets; I’m just plain enraptured by it. When we had Israeli students visit my high school three years ago, I–and this is a completely true story-asked them in total seriousness about how popular air conditioning was (as many countries are not as reliant on it as we are) in Israel and how they felt about the different socket shapes here and was met with laughter. They thought I was joking.

But my interest in electrical sockets and converters has very little to do with the story I’m about to tell you. In fact, I’m sure everyone involved wishes that I had decided to celebrate electrical sockets or something else that did not involve burning candles or boiling water. But I was ten or so and entirely foolish and had recently developed a keen interest in the ways other countries celebrated Christmas. I was particularly attracted to Scandinavia, specifically Saint Lucia’s Day. My rudimentary understanding of the feast day was that girls put wreaths on their heads with burning candles in them, wore long white dresses, and made everyone breakfast in bed.

(Click here for proper information on how the holiday is celebrated.)

So I decided that on December 13th, I too was going to celebrate it. I woke up early in the morning, dragged Pippa out of bed, and set about making breakfast. I began by trying to slice frozen bagels with a butcher’s knife, and it went downhill from there. After I had put together two trays, I poured large mugs of tea and coffee right up to the brim with water that had been boiling for quite a while, set our ADVENT wreath on top of my head (The only reason I didn’t light the candles was that I couldn’t find the long candle lighter, and Pippa thought it was a bad idea.), and proceeded to try to walk up the stairs, singing carols.

Thankfully, I had thought enough ahead not to give Pippa the tray with the hot drinks (If memory serves me right, she was holding the bagels and pastries.), but I had not thought about my own limits. I have never been particularly strong (my upper arms are as skinny as my forearms), and I began to struggle with the weight and keeping everything balanced. I recall looking down at the tray and thinking, Why is it shaking? It’s getting really hard to keep it all from sloshing… And then I proceeded to trip and spill all of the liquid onto my abdomen and the tan carpeting. Pippa freaked out and dropped her tray, and my parents came dashing out of their room to see why she was yelling.

Like with most injuries, it doesn’t occur to you that you are in pain until about a minute after the fact. I just stood there and stared at the mess and my sodden nightgown, bemoaning the fact that I had just ruined everything. But then pain set in, in the way that pain always does, and it suddenly felt like my stomach was on fire. My parents dragged me into the bathroom and put me in the shower with the cold water on. I was crying and freezing and burning up all at the same time. They pulled off my nightgown, and I had some very nice second degree burns. It wasn’t anything that required a trip to the hospital, but it still wasn’t a good situation.

At the time, I was still, thankfully, rather unfamiliar with the nature of burns, and was completely confused as to why it looked like I had a bunch of large blisters across my stomach. Figuring out how to bandage them was more fun than a barrel full of monkeys, and I spent the rest of the day peeling off those bandages to look at them. Because there is nothing more fascinating than second degree burns on your stomach. It’s an especially great conversation starter with your friends, particularly when you’re still at age where showing your injuries off is still socially acceptable.

Then, about two weeks later, I dumped a cup of hot coffee into my lap while we were on vacation. It very nearly ruined my bright orange shapeless velour pants (which were already huge fashion crime to begin with), and hurt like heck. But this time around I was a hot liquids expert. I ran to the bathroom to take off my pants so that they wouldn’t hold the heat to my body and injure me, and I did a much better job of not constantly messing with the burns.

(The burns from both ended up turning into weird dark brown scars that very slowly faded to almost complete invisibility.)

When I look back on this whole fiasco now, I’m mostly amused by my younger self and INCREDIBLY thankful that I did not actually light the advent wreath. It would have fallen directly onto Pippa when I tripped and probably set the house on fire.

So here’s to parents that do a good job of hiding lighters and matches from their kids and to foolish ten-year-olds everywhere.

December 13th is coming up, and I can assure you that I will not be attempting any form of celebration that involves boiling water and stairs. Maybe I’ll run around on flat surfaces with ice cubes instead.

In order to celebrate 11/11/11 I’m going to watch a documentary on WWI and write for at least eleven hours. I expect to be brain dead by the end of it.

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

3 thoughts on “The Time Ella Decided to Celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day and It Went Horribly, Horribly Wrong

  1. An excellent, well-told example of learning the hard way. (Parents make themselves crazy trying to prevent it. But despite their best efforts, these episodes seem to crop up.)

    Also, kudos to Pippa & her level head, who prevented further (& much more catastrophic) grief from transpiring.

  2. Pingback: Never, Ever Hide in a Dryer: In Which Ella Tells the Story of the First Time She Babysat | Eleanor Called Ella

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