Monday, December 8, 2008


A symbol of light at the darkest time of the year. That's what the Lucia tradition brings to Scandinavia and Finland each December. Attending my first Lucia festival over the weekend (for the Swedish community in San Francisco), I watched a choir procession of girls in white gowns with red sashes and wreaths in their hair carry electric candles and sing songs of hope and peace. One of the girls wore a crown of electric candles (replacing real candles for safety reasons.) A few "star boys" also made up part of the procession, wearing "star" cones on their heads.

Sweden adopted the Lucia tradition from Sicily. Swedes saw Lucia as the bearer of light during the darkest days of winter. Legend tells us that Saint Lucia was burned at the stake, accused of being a witch after giving her entire marriage dowry to the poor of her Sicilian village, but that her message of light and kindness could not be extinguished.

The holiday (not an official holiday) of Lucia is celebrated every December 13th. In Sweden, most families are woken up by the youngest daughter (or child), singing the song of Lucia. The family Lucia brings their parents a breakfast of lussekatter (Swedish saffron buns) and gingerbread cookies.

Most Swedish schools also host Lucia pageants. Sweden also holds a competition each year for a national Lucia and there are a plethora of unofficial television Lucias. Many offices in Sweden also mark the holiday with lussekatter and perhaps some glögg (mulled wine).

© 2008 Lisa Sculati

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