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The Santa Lucia Angels and your Child’s Sleep by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

There are so many festivals of light at this time of year, especially in countries where the days grow short. You may have seen pictures of the oldest daughter in Sweden, wearing a crown of burning candles and bringing pastries to the family on the morning of December 13th, Santa Lucia’s Day. (It’s a long, interesting story how this celebration got from Sicily to Scandinavia!)

This festival of light was also celebrated at the Waldorf Institute when we did the teacher training there: all the families with children were invited to leave their homes open the night of December 12th for the Santa Lucia angels to come in singing and give a star cookie to each child they gently awoke.  I was living with five adults and three children at the time and decided not to tell anyone else about our angelic visitors, so you can imagine that the adults were even more amazed than the children….

So when I taught my first kindergarten, I was eager to share this special ritual with the families in my class. My friend—who had experienced the angels with us and at first felt she had died and gone to heaven—recruited another friend, and they made the costumes and candle crowns and learned the Santa Lucia song. All the parents in my class wanted to participate, understanding that all they had to do was leave the door unlocked and make sure any pets were secured.  The angels mapped out their route, and off they drove, into the dark Michigan night.


Then it was 6 a.m. and the angels were back at my house, rousting me out of bed quite unceremoniously. Apparently they had finished their rounds about 4:30 a.m. and had gone to Denny’s in full regalia for breakfast. Now they were fairly bursting with stories that they couldn’t wait any longer to tell me. Here’s what the angels had to report:

“We got to Tim’s house,” (Tim was six and a huge bruiser of a guy…quite a handful) “and you’ll never guess what was over his bed?”  No guesses from me.  “A huge picture of tyrannosaurus rex!!” they exclaimed.  My eyes widened.

“And then at Jimmie’s house,…” (Jimmie was as big and choleric as Tim, with flaming red hair—did I mention that my first kindergarten class had 16 boys and 3 girls?) “there was Jimmie in a huge plastic racing car bed!  He looked so little curled up in the corner of it.”

“At Sam’s house there was a mattress on the floor with three children, and everything smelled like pee. We could barely find Sam for all the clothes and toys on the floor.”

“At Sarah’s house her parents had stayed awake to greet us.  Her mother whipped out a CAMERA and called out, ‘The angels are here, dear.  Let’s take a picture with the angels!’”

The stories went on and on (16+3=19 children), and we were alternately laughing and practically crying. It made me wonder:

IF THE ANGELS CAME TO YOUR HOUSE–and they do, you know, every night–WHAT WOULD THEY FIND?                                                                                                                                   Is the atmosphere in your child’s room conducive to rest and regeneration? What are the colors and the images like? Are toys put away, or would they have trouble even finding your child? Since this unexpected report, I’ve often encouraged parents to take “an angel’s eye view” of their child in sleep, just to see….

Rahima Baldwin Dancy taught her first Waldorf kindergarten class in Ann Arbor in 1983.  She has also been a midwife and co-director of Rainbow Bridge LifeWays Program in Boulder.  She is on the LifeWays board and is the author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.