Today is December 13—better known in Sweden as Lucia. It’s a lovely holiday meant to celebrate the bringing of light into the dark, dark winter. It used to correspond with the winter solstice on December 21 or 22, but these days it coincides with St. Lucia’s day on the 13th.
All schools, preschools, and most towns have some sort of Lucia procession in which the kids dress up and walk in a procession carrying candles (usually battery-powered) and singing songs. The kids are usually dressed as Lucia or one of her handmaidens or star boys (whose outfits look shockingly like KKK outfits, though there is no connection between them), or like a pepparkaksgubbe (gingerbread man) or jultomte (Santa Claus).
I got the boys to dress up, but I couldn’t quite get them to hold still:
Glögg (mulled wine), lussekatter (saffron buns, which no one seems to enjoy), and pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) are usually served at the event.
We saw a Lucia procession at a local julmarknad (Christmas market) last weekend, and Leif was particularly impressed with the candles in Lucia’s hair. James was worried about the wax dripping dripping down!
Here’s some information about the holiday from the wonderful sweden.se website:
Alongside Midsummer, the Lucia celebrations represent one of the foremost cultural traditions in Sweden, with their clear reference to life in the peasant communities of old: darkness and light, cold and warmth.
Lucia is an ancient mythical figure with an abiding role as a bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters.
The many Lucia songs all have the same theme:
The night treads heavily
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.
This video is a great primer on the holiday and definitely worth watching:
The Swedish winters are long and dark (I’m preparing a post about that, so stay tuned); it feels almost necessary to take a break to celebrate the coming of light into that darkness. It also feels absolutely necessary to light candles to cozy up the long, long nights.
Do you celebrate the solstice? Do you have any rituals to honor the dark and welcome the light?
Top image from Cecilia Larsson Lantz/Imagebank.sweden.se