Ready for Santa Lucia!
Before coming here I was intrigue of many things, one of them: does people really wear a candle crown and walk on a white gown on a specific day in Sweden? Yes, it’s today and is call: Santa Lucia.
Let’s admit it, one of the best things about moving to another country is to experience life as a local. I mean after four months you’re no longer consider a tourist. You have stayed in the country long enough to don’t get lost, but still once in a while something new pop-up and your curiosity and explorer mood are back on, just like the first day.
This happened to me few weeks ago when what I thought was a Christmas choir turns out to be Helsingborg’s Lucia coronation (The town where I live was choosing their new Lucia). It all started when a friend told me there was an event to light the christmas tree in the city center and perform traditional songs of this time of the year. So off course I didn’t wanted to missed it, plus it was Sunday so I needed an excuse to stop working on my academic paper.
The gather started witht he typicall christmas songs…
But then all the Lucia contestants walked in, wearing white gowns with a red ribbon. The organizers announced the winner and you could see the emotion in her face, the new Helsingborg Lucia had been choosen. She stood in the middle and received the candle crown (battery candles, because of the wind and safety reason I suppose).
And all of them start singing Santa Lucia song, I have to say it was beautiful and even though many of the songs were on Swedish some melodies were universal so I managed to get into the festivities mood. And even sing along!
Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
But, who/what is Santa Lucia?
December 13 is a feast day of the martyr Lucia, on the calendar of saints. She was a Christian virgin who lived in Syracuse on the island of Sicily at the end of the 3th century. It remains unclear quite how she worked her way into Swedish tradition.
The story is that Saint Lucia secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome, who were forced underground into the catacombs (I know, is not as nice as the event itsefl). Lucia would wear a crown of candles so she could used both of her hands to carry items.
Now the biggest question, how did she end up in Sweden?
According to the story, long ago, on the darkest day of the harshest winter, the Swedes saw a boat sailing toward them across Lake Vännern. At the front of the boat, as the legend goes, a beautiful maiden stood dressed in all white and glowing with an ethereal light. The Swedes witnessing this phenomenon also recorded that the boat had no oars, wind, or people to navigate it to the shoreline. When the boat reached the land, St. Lucia handed out giant sacks of wheat to the Swedes until the boat was empty. The wheat lasted the Swedes all winter long, thus this is the story of how St. Lucia correlates with Scandinavia.
Anyways, there’re so many version about the begining of this tradition, so I would say at the end it doesn’t really matter anymore. Is just a great excuse to get together around “the girl with the candlelight crown” sing the beautiful melodies, have saffron’s buns and coffee. Schools, universities, public institutions, corporate headquarters, doesn’t matter where you’re, if you’re in Sweden today prepare to see some Lucia procession and join the festivities of the light.
Still don’t get 100%? Ok, ok, watch this video and you’ll be set.
Now, while I finish writing this blog, I’m getting ready to go out there and find the ultimate Lucia procession.
One more Swedish tradition to mark off my list.