A Trusting Heart takes place in 1880, the same year this painting was made.
In Carrie’s novella, A Trusting Heart, the heroine’s family comes from Sweden, so she brings Swedish Christmas traditions with her when she travels to Wyoming and shares them with her new family. Here are two articles about Swedish Christmas traditions.
Swedish Christmas Traditions:
from Christmas World/WorldofChristmas.net
In Sweden, Christmas begins with Saint Lucia ceremony on 13th of December. Lucia was a Christian virgin who is remembered for her devout faith in Christianity in the 4th century at Syracuse. The ceremony is held in her honor and is quite recent and is often associated with the traditional thanksgiving for the return of the sun. On this day, the youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe with a red sash before dawn and wears a crown of evergreens with tall-lighted candles attached to it. Then she wakes her parents accompanied by other children and followed by star boys in long white shirts, pointed hats and carrying star wands, and serves them with coffee and Lucia buns.
Similar to Scandinavia, Swedish people move in procession to the church with lighted candles in hand. At home, mothers lights the candles on Christmas Eve. Christmas trees are set up in Sweden two days before Christmas and are decorated with candles, apples, straw ornaments Swedish flags and small gnomes wearing red tasseled caps. Christmas home decorations include red tulips, Pepparkakor or the heart-star and goat-shaped gingerbread biscuit. Christmas Eve is known as Julafton in Swedish. Traditional Christmas Eve dinner includes smorgasbord or a buffet may also be arranged featuring Julskinka or Christmas ham, pickled pigs feet, lutfisk or dried codfish and variety of sweets.
A popular Christmas tradition is to serve Risgryngrot, special rice porridge with a hidden almond. Anyone who finds the almond in his or her bowl is believed to marry in the coming year. After the festive Christmas Eve dinner, a friend or family member dresses up as Tomte or Christmas gnome who is believed to live under the floorboards of the house or barn and used to ride a straw goat known as Julbok. Tomte wears a white beard and red robes and carries a sack with gifts in it. He gives out the gifts and presents, often accompanied by funny rhymes, hinting at the contents of the package. Previously, it was Julbok who gave out presents and then Tomte or Santa Claus came in. Today, Tomte and Julbok are no longer associated together though a little brownie known as Jultomten, helps Santa Claus to give gifts to good children in Sweden. Modern American figure is quickly catching up in Sweden and Tomte is losing his original identity.
Holiday Traditions of Sweden:
from Mayaco Marketing website
The biggest and longest holiday of the year is the magical Christmas of Sweden. The excitement begins the first Sunday of Advent with the lighting of the first Advent candle. Each Sunday prior to Christmas, another candle is lit with growing anticipation.
Feasting and celebrating begin on December 13 with Lucia Day, which legend says is the longest night of the year and a time when man and beast need extra nourishment. A Lucia (Queen of Light) is chosen from each home, club, school, etc. She is dressed in a white gown with a crown of candles in her hair. She brings coffee, rolls, and ginger biscuits. She is generally accompanied by a train of white-clad attendants. The girls wear glitter in their hair and the boys wear tall paper cone hats decorated with stars. While delivering their precious fare, they sing traditional Lucia carols.
The Swedish Christmas tree is not brought into the home until one or two days before Christmas. It is decorated with gaily wrapped candies, glass bulbs, and often straw trinkets, with electric lights or candles.
But the height of the Christmas celebrations is December 24, Christmas Eve. No work is to be done on this day except feeding the livestock and last minute preparations for the splendid Christmas meal. This is the famous Swedish “Smorgasbord.” Dishes such as ham, jellied pigs feet, “lutfisk” and rice porridge are traditional. “Lutfishk” literally translated means “lye-fish” and actually is foaked in lye to make it soft and palatable. The rice porridge is made with an abundance of cram, sugar and cinnamon and whoever finds the whole almond in their porridge is expected to be married within the year.
After the meal, the “Tomte” comes. He is the Christmas elf who lives under floorboards of the hours or barn and looks after the family and livestock throughout the year. “Tomte” often brings presents and children graciously leave a dish of porridge for him during the night.
By tradition, Swedes attend church in the vary early hours of Christmas morning. Occasionally, as in olden days, the trek to church is made by horse-drawn sleighs. The ride often becomes a race to the church. It is believed the winner will have the best harvest in the coming year.
The Christmas spirit and enjoyment linger until January 14—Knut’s Day—the day appointed to discard the Christmas tree and devour all the edible decorations. This is quite an occasion, especially for the young who occasionally dress as “Old Knut” and play practical jokes and chant as they fling the old tree into the snow, with a promise to reunite with their beloved pine in one year.