no. it wasn’t light outside at 7am. far from it actually. it was pitch dark and -6 degrees (F). there was still 2 hours of darkness left. but on this cold, wintry morning, we set the alarm & snuck out from under the covers, lit our two advent candles, brewed a pot of coffee, and turned on the tv…
because today is st. lucia day in sweden.
celebrating st. lucia in sweden has been going on since 1764, but the tradition and the legend of st. lucia have been around since the 300s. that’s more than 1,700 years, y’all. the holiday is associated with a young italian girl named lucia. legend has it that she carried food to persecuted christians who were hiding under the city in the catacombs in the early 300s. she wore a crown of candles on her head because she carried the food in her hands. sadly, the young lucia was put to death for her faith & her service in 304 ad, thus becoming a christian martyr who is remembered by various countries around the world.
the swedish lucia is the bearer of light – literally & figuratively. lucia (lucy) actually means “light”. lucia, dressed in all white, wears a crown of evergreen branches & candles on her head, bringing light to the swedish people on the darkest night of the year. a reminder that even in the dark & dead of winter, life will return. of course, in modern times, the darkest night/shortest day of the year is celebrated on december 21, the winter solstice. but, in the old julian calendar, the longest night/shortest day was on december 13. so, in sweden, lucia is celebrated on this day.
right now, the days here are very short and the sun hangs low in the sky, never really rising above the buildings found in city centers. in northern sweden, there is actually no sunlight at all. here, where i live, the sun is up for about 6 hours. the rest of the hours of the day are filled with darkness, which is why swedes light up their homes with candles, lights in the windows, and lights in trees all over the city. it helps with the darkness. it’s an attempt to make things more cozy & beautiful.
december 13 is the culmination of the celebration of light. early in the morning, swedes begin the feast of st. lucia with a televised concert in a church somewhere in sweden. this morning the concert was in uppsala, sweden. the young girl, who had the honor of being lucia this year, entered the church followed by a choir singing the st. lucia song…
Natten går tunga fjät
rund gård och stuva;
kring jord, som sol förlät,
Då i vårt mörka hus,
stiger med tända ljus,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.
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.
a beautiful song about the long, dark winter and the return of light, huh?
in addition to kicking off lucia day gathered by the tv, for the rest of the day people will be taking part in other various lucia traditions. local children & teenagers will show up at businesses and stores as a luciatåg (lucia train), mimicking the official “lucia train” from this morning. lussekatter (lucia buns) and pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) will be eaten during fika breaks. there will be singing & music. and, of course, candles will be glowing in windows and in homes. the lucia traditions occur throughout the christmas season, but today is the height of the festival.
i must admit, this is a beautiful tradition. cozy. simple. and filled with hope & simplicity.
yes. it’s such a beautiful and holiday. a day to remember… love, goodness, and peace win. and light overcomes the darkness.