It’s December 13 today and for all Swedes this day is known as Lucia Day. Lucia is a creature of goodness and light, she is a shining angel illuminating the way to the Christmas season.
The Lucia celebration originates from the Middle Ages when December 13th was the longest night of the year according to the Julian calendar. The Swedish Lucia has little in common with her namesake, also known in English as Saint Lucy, the Sicilian fourth century martyr. Missionaries brought the legend to Sweden and since the Vikings celebrated their pagan midwinter festival on December 13, the Lucia legend merged with this festival of light.
The Lucia tradition has developed into a community festival. Towns elect their own Lucia through contests and today there are Lucia processions in every town, at daycare centres, schools and at work places. The procession traditionally consists of a Lucia, her maidens (in Swedish tärnor), star boys (in Swedish stjärngossar) and possibly also some Santa’s and gingerbread men. Tradition has it that Lucia is to wear light in her hair, which in practice means a crown of candles in a wreath on her head (electrical candles for the kids). Each of her maidens carries a candle too and the star boys, who like the Lucia and the maidens are dressed in white gowns, carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads.
The many Lucia songs all have the same theme; Lucia brings light and hope to a dark and depressing time.
around yards and dwellings
in places unreached by sun,
the shadows brood
Into our dark house she comes,
bearing lighted candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.
All Swedes know the standard Lucia song by heart, and everyone can sing it, in or out of tune. The Lucia celebrations also include gingerbread cookies and sweet, saffron-flavoured buns (lussekatter) shaped like curled-up cats and with raisin eyes that you eat with glögg or coffee.
Lucia is also a notorious party night especially for high school kids and at many universities, students hold big formal dinner parties since this is the last chance to celebrate together before most students go home to their families for Christmas.glögg, Lucia, lussekatter, traditions, typically swedish