A Light in the Darkness – Sweden’s St Lucia Holiday.

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This Wednesday will be a very important day in Sweden. It will be the Swedish Holiday of St Lucia. Now, Some people may be confused since there is also a Caribbean Island called St Lucia, but I am gonna be talking about the holiday.

St. Lucia is a holiday celebrated on the 13th of December in Sweden and some parts of Finland where Swedish is a dominant language. I am going to explain what this holiday is, the origins of it, and how to celebrate it. This is also gonna be the last article of 2023, Because I will be busy during the holidays. I will still be active though. I will also post only twice a week as well

The Origins

There is a debate on whether St. Lucia Day is considered to be a religious holiday or not, since it has religious origins (And a lot of Sweden’s population is Atheist, and due to the refugees there are a lot of Swedish Muslims as well).

St. Lucia

St Lucia was a Christian saint. She was born on an unknown date (but she died in 304 AD). She lived in Sicily, Italy (which is kind of random if this was a Swedish holiday). Not much is known about her, and I couldn’t conduct a lot of research for the origins of St Lucia herself.

The holiday was actually adapted into Yule in the Viking Age, Which is a Pagan holiday that requires lighting bonfires to destroy negative spirits. Due to the conversion to Christianity that the Norse went through, this holiday is traditionally an Interfaith holiday.

Another theory is that this holiday represents the harsh winters that poorer Swedes had to endure in the 18th and 19th centuries and to wish for light and warmth from the truth. There is no real proof on whether this holiday is associated with technical Swedish history.

How to Celebrate

One important part of the holiday is the ceremony. In the ceremony, the oldest daughter of a family (if the family has no children or only boys, then the oldest girl in the extended family between the ages of 7 and 21, or a friend) dresses up as Lucia. The girl has to wear a white robe with a red belt, and a flower crown with candles . She will also serve traditional foods to older members of the family, Some of these foods include coffee and bread. Before the holiday, she can give them to guests and her friends.

Then, a boy will dress with a suit made of pajama-like fabric with stars as patterns. His job will be to sing traditional songs as he follows his sister. The other kids in the family, especially those under 10 years old will follow. 

This holiday doesn’t have to be celebrated at home. Churches usually hold a choir service that also includes fun activities for the kids celebrating the holiday. Traditionally, school will have half-days and end at noon to let families prepare for St Lucia. Today, some upper-level (8th grade to 4th grade) schools have raffles in which the teachers pick which girl will be Lucia. In lower level schools (in the US, that will be considered kindergarten to 3rd grade), most girls get to be Lucia.

It is custom to eat plenty of “Lussekatter” (Lusse buns) on the feast of Saint Lucy. Credit: Per Ola Wiberg – CC BY 2.0

Did you know about this holiday? What do you celebrate during the winter?

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