Food & Drink
Lucia celebrations that light up the night
The feast of Lucia is celebrated all over Sweden and is a big part of the country’s Christmas celebrations. Here’s how to make the most of the festivities.
Every year, on December 13th, all of Sweden celebrates the feast of Sankta Lucia (Saint Lucy). According to 14th-century folklore, this was a dangerous night when many people believed that supernatural beings roamed the land. The Julian calendar was in use at the time, so this night coincided with the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. This led many people to stay awake throughout the night to protect themselves from evil spirits.
It was only later that the feast day was named after Saint Lucia, a martyr and saint in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. However, Scandinavia’s Lucia celebrations have little to do with the saint, and instead symbolizes light in the darkness.
Here are the best ways to celebrate Lucia in Sweden:
Lucia procession – an absolute must
The tradition of dressing women and girls in white and putting candles in their hair began in the 18th century. Then a procession was introduced, with “Lucia” walking at the front of a “Lucia procession” where everyone is dressed in white. Each year, many Swedish towns choose a “Lucia”, which is a great honor for the lucky individual chosen. These days it’s not unusual to see people dressed as gingerbread people, elves, and stable hands taking part in the procession.
Singing at Lucia
Song and music are a big part of the Lucia celebrations. Lucia and the Lucia procession sing as they walk along and many churches around the country hold a Lucia concert in the evening. If you’re lucky enough to see a Lucia procession close up, remember that you’re not supposed to join in with the singing yourself! You can hum if you really must, but leave the high notes to those who can reach them.
Mulled wine and Lucia buns
Mulled wine and gingerbread are consumed by most Swedes throughout the Christmas season. The festival of Lucia has its very own pastry though: the Lucia bun. A pastry flavored with saffron and garnished with raisins. It’s not really Lucia unless you’ve munched on a bun (or two!).
How you can celebrate Lucia
The festivities can begin early in the morning. National broadcaster Sveriges Television has a regular tradition of showing a wonderful Lucia procession during its hour-long “Lucia Morning” program, which is often repeated in the afternoon and evening. Many workplaces, schools, and retirement homes give out Lucia buns and in the evening many people visit a church to enjoy a Lucia concert of choral singing.
Published: December 7, 2018