hey y’all. i’m gonna do things a little different this week. i had a good week last week, and was pretty busy with some important things (like signing my contract to begin work in janauary!, working at the photo boutique, and writing some), but i think i’d like to focus today’s post only on yesterday: lucia day in sweden.
right now we really are surrounded by darkness here in sweden. there is less than 6 hours of daylight each day, and we’re gonna lose even more daylight over the next week. it’s truly an unbelievable thing to experience. of course, the northern parts of sweden have no sunlight at all during this time of year. i can’t even begin to imagine that.
and, while i have been writing and reflecting a lot on the darkness, learning to love it and live in it, i know that it truly affects many people in different ways. for me, the darkness is still quite cozy. i’ve adjusted quite well.
however it’s not totally dark here. swedes are amazing at creating an atmosphere that, while it is dark and cold, also becomes very cozy. right now, everyone has filled their homes with the the warm glow of candles… tons of candles, mind you. oh, and twinkle lights. and lights in every window. cities also decorate streets, trees, and buildings with lights.
anything to brighten up the dark wintertime.
and these lights and candles that fill the windows and homes of every building everywhere give a truly magical feeling to this time of year. truly, there is nothing like it.
but, the really bringer of light to this darkest time of the year is saint lucia, who we celebrated yesterday.
it is believed that if you truly celebrate st. lucia’s day, then you will survive the long, cold, dark winter. why, you wonder? because she is the bearer and bringer of light in the darkness.
st. lucia day in sweden is a combination of pagan and christian celebrations. it is both a day of recognizing the light and the darkness in the world, and a day to remember the italian saint for whom the day was named. december 13 has become the day in which swedes recognize the darkness and celebrate the coming of light, in the person of saint lucia, who spread love and light in the lives of all she met. her name actually means light.
the day is celebrated by embracing the darkness with candles, song, and a young person dressed as lucia, leading a train of fellow singers, all dressed in white, with red sashes and green crowns on their heads. the person who is lucia, wears a crown of candles, literally bearing the light and brightening up the darkness.
there are lucia concerts in every town and city, and lina (my wife) and i chose to go to the one in uppsala’s cathedral, the largest cathedral in scandinavia, which is from the 1500s. it is an amazing, huge, inspiring, powerful place just about a 15 minute walk from our apartment.
so, we headed out and gathered there with a few other thousand people (the cathedral was sold out!) to sit in the darkness and wait for the light to come.
at precisely 6pm, the lights went off and it was totally dark in this gigantic cathedral from the middle ages. and then, the music begin to rise out of the darkness. my favorite hymn, “o come, o come emmanuel”. the choir’s voices rang out in the huge space. one tiny little light flickered somewhere in the back.
and, then, slowly, lucia made her way down the center aisle, candles flickering on her head. i was absolutely moved. soon the rest of the choir headed down towards the middle of the cathedral, suddenly stopping directly in front of us. i felt as if i was flying on the notes of the music. it was pure magic.
the light literally overtook the darkness.
and then, one hour later, after music and light had warmed our souls, lucia led the choirs back out, down the center aisle. and, just as quietly and beautifully as she had entered with the light, now she was gone. and it was again dark.
but, her presence had filled me. and all i could think of was that, yes, now i could survive the rest of the dark days. these beautiful, short, dark, cold days still have glimmers of light. and, once again, nature will renew herself. the light will return.
until those bright spring days return, it is us, like lucia, who are to bear the light of love and hope out into the world, through our own lives.
when it is dark, we create our own light. we brighten up out own days. and we remember that within us, the light shines oh so brightly. now is the time to fan the flame and share the warmth.
last night i recorded some of the concert. i just knew that i wanted to share this magical, beautiful tradition with you all. so, here is a video that i put together of the concert last night. the beginning is dark, but powerful. and then, the light grows and is breathtakingly inspiring. and, finally, the light goes out once again, but guarantee that even in the darkness once again, something will have changed. take a few moments out of your day today, and enjoy.
now, how beautiful would the light be without the darkness? isn’t it simply because of the darkness that the light is so inspiring? i do believe that it is true that in the darkness… that’s where potential and possibility lie. gaaaah. i still like i am flying high from this concert. blown away + touched so deeply.
have a great week, everyone. and bear that light wherever you go!
I’m so pleased I’m working at home today so I could properly watch this video on my break! Wonderful! There’s so many people!! ALSO – Does the lead Lucia have a hat of burning candles???
oh, yay for working at home perks! The cathedral was packed – and it is HUGE. Thousands of people. And, yes, Lucia has burning candles on her head! A wreath though, and not a hat. 😉
What an amazing experience!
It truly was, Rachel. Absolutely. xx
Your photos and description make this seem like such a beautiful tradition; I can’t wait to watch the video when I get some wifi. To have such a powerful reminder that light will return seems incredibly useful too in a country that gets as dark as Sweden. Also, you put it so well that darkness serves as a contrast and makes us appreciate the light, gives us faith in ourselves, and reminds us that we have the power to create our own light. xoxo
I can’t wait for you to see it either. I think you will absolutely love it, Meghan. xoxo
Yup, “absolutely love it.” Beautiful, powerful, and touching. I can imagine how amazing it was to be there in person.
I can remember being selected to be St. Lucia when I was young. This brought back wonderful memories.
While I can’t imagine living in a place where there is soooo much darkness, I think it is good to truly appreciate light – something that is easy to forget (and take for granted) during other times.
How fun that you have your own Lucia memories! And, yes, it is definitely a way to learn to appreciate the light, by living in the darkness. You are so right. 🙂
That was GORGEOUS. Thank you for sharing that! The beauty of the music and the candles – breathtaking.
It was such a breathtaking night. I was literally in awe throughout the entire thing. So glad you liked it!
Wow, thank you for sharing this! What a beautiful, inspiring tradition. Just the moment of stillness I needed today.
Wow, I am so glad that you experienced a bit of silence and stillness from this – that was exactly my intention! xx
As I said before, I love reading your blog updates. I feel a sense of comfort when at your blog. Beautiful photographs! My nephew’s 10th birthday was on the 13th, fascinating to come and learn about St. Lucia day, thank you. When I lived in Anchorage age 0-15 I felt the pull of darkness on our daily life in Nov-April, the darkness would set in like a blanket. However, I loved looking out at night when it snowed and the world seemed illuminated by the white flakes of snow falling underneath street lamps. 🙂 <3's to you!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. xo
Oh, I am certain that you know what I am talking about, then, with the darkness after living in Anchorage. And, I absolutely agree – the snow lighting things up makes all the difference! Love to you!
Thanks! 🙂 <3 <3
That was so beautiful, thank you for sharing such an incredible tradition with the rest of us. =)
You are so welcome. 🙂 I love that you loved it!