Monday, December 16, 2013

Saint Lucia Day

My beautiful niece Linnea as Lucia

Friday the 13th was St. Lucia's day, a day celebrated all throughout Scandinavia as a festival of lights.  It makes sense that these northerly countries celebrate a triumph of light over the darkness of winter.

In the old days, December 13th was thought to be the longest night of the year.  This has something to do with the Julian calendar and the winter solstice falling on December 13th in the 14th century and doesn't really have anything to do with the winter solstice any more.  But the date stuck.

Saint Lucia, or Lucy, was a Sicilian maiden who suffered a sad, and rather gruesome death way back in the third century for not renouncing her Christian faith.  There's also something in the tale about not wanting to marry a man who was not of her faith... but the crux of the story is that she was a good girl and a great role model.

Lucia is very popular in certain areas of Italy where she is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones on the night between December 12th and 13th.  (Hmmmm.  Kinda sounds like Santa Claus, doesn't she?)

In the Scandinavian countries - Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland - the Lucia festival is celebrated widely.  On December 13th a girl is elected to portray Lucia and she leads a procession of other young women, each holding candles.  The main girl wears a crown with candles - all symbolizing Saint Lucia's horrible death by fire.

They all sing a song about Saint Lucy and light overcoming winter darkness, to the traditional Italian tune of Santa Lucia, followed by lots of Christmas carols.

At the Swedish Embassy in Washington - a whole lot of beautiful Nordic beauties

In Swedish households, it is the tradition that the oldest daughter arises early and prepares breakfast for everyone.  She serves it wearing her white gown with a red sash and the crown of candles on her head.  My sister-in-law grew up playing Lucia on this special day, and so did my niece Linnea!

Thankfully there now are battery-operated Lucia wreaths so modern girls don't have to accidently meet Lucia's fiery end too!  However, Linnea explains that she's still pulling wax out of her hair from Thursday night's Lucia Fest at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C., so her candles in the photos above are real!

Yes.  I blatantly borrowed her photos from the program.  They were just too pretty not to share.  For a couple of delightful blogs on Linnea's Santa Lucia experiences old and new, please check out the following links:


Happy Saint Lucia's Day, everyone!  Even if it is wished you a little late.  I, personally, am glad the light always triumphs over the darkness.

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