Today is December 13th, Saint Lucia’s Day. While this is a feast day normally associated with Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, it’s actually celebrated in various ways all over the world. It’s one of those commemorations that’s made up of a hodge-podge of influences from many different places, that have blended together for so long that no one is quite sure any more which tradition belongs to which country or belief system.
The Swedish Julmarknad that I wrote about a few weeks ago featured a Lucia pageant, but I held off writing about this tradition until today. (I also won’t be sharing my own photos of the event, as I obviously don’t have consent from the children or their parents, and I’m not looking for a lawsuit….)
On December 13th, the eldest daughter in the household promenades through the house wearing a white gown, red sash, and crown of (lit) candles, and delivers coffee and Lussekatt (“St. Lucia buns”, made with saffron) to her parents, who are presumably still asleep in bed.
Over the years, it has grown into a larger celebration, with each town and city appointing a Lucia, who then leads a procession through the streets, singing well-known songs.
Lucia, a Catholic Martyr, was sentenced to death by burning. The candles originally symbolised the fire that refused to take her life.
I much prefer the more “G-rated” meaning: that the candles are harbingers of the light that will come in the Spring, shining through the constant darkness of Winter. Our current Gregorian calendar sets Lucia Day 8 days apart from the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. However, the two dates might once have coincided, and are close enough even now to encourage a connection between them. (wikipedia explains this in much more detail, if you’re interested….)
There are some truly inspiring bloggers working from Scandinavian and other Northern European countries, so I thought I’d celebrate this day by sharing some of them with you!
A great overview is Brittany Watson Jepsen’s The House that Lars Built. This year, she’s featuring a different Scandinavian blogger on each of the 24 days before Christmas. They share cultural traditions, family customs, diy projects, and stories.
Contributing from Sweden, I thought instantly of lights and candles. These play a prominent roll in Swedish holiday decoration from the hanging paper stars in windows to Advent Candelabras and candles; right down to the Candle Crown worn by Lucia, which she wears ceremoniously as she brings in the sun at dawn on December 13 for the holiday of St. Lucia. Candles and lights are not restrained to the indoors. During my first Swedish Christmas, before we sat down to enjoy our Christmas Eve feast, several snow ball lanterns were built outdoors, just outside the dining room window for the final ambiance. Today, in my home, we make Ice Lanterns.
Maybe eat dinner by candlelight tonight! Or perhaps you could (finally) set up your Christmas lights and treat your neighbourhood to a light show! Or just listen to this traditional Santa Lucia song while going about your evening activities — it’s quite lovely…