bringing the light

Screen shot 2012-12-13 at 6.55.37 PM

“Santa Lucia” by Swedish artist Jenny Eugenia Nyström

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.

This Lucia doesn't look very pleased to be up so early....

This Lucia doesn’t look very pleased to be up so early….

a Lucia crown

a Lucia crown



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.

that little girl has a highly developed stinkeye.... she does not seem to be a fan of Lucia....

that little girl has a highly developed stinkeye…. she does not seem to be a fan of Lucia….

Lucia, a Catholic Martyr, was sentenced to death by burning. The candles originally symbolised the fire that refused to take her life.

Santa Lucia, as depicted in a Renaissance statue.... Ouch.....!

Santa Lucia, as depicted in a Renaissance statue…. Ouch…..!

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.

One of my favourites so far has been Gina of Willowday, who shared this incredible Ice Lantern tutorial!

Screen shot 2012-12-13 at 7.14.50 PMAren’t they incredibly beautiful? She explains her inspiration:

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…


2 thoughts on “bringing the light

  1. I can’t believe we’ve found one another on Swedish Lucia! Yes, this is all true and very evident. I think our oldest confessed to eating 4 Lucia Saffron buns yesterday and it is such a beautiful holiday. Thank you for the mention and also, for the pin. I look forward to “meeting” you hear many times in the future. Happy Friday!

  2. I am so pleased you like the post, and even more pleased that I got all the information about St Lucia right! I can’t tell you how happy it made me to read this comment this morning! I’m definitely so happy that I discovered your blog, and I love that we’re now in touch! Hope you have an absolutely marvellous weekend 🙂

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