St. Lucia

December 11, 2015
Advent Reflections

The Feast of St. Lucia is a festival of lights celebrated in Sweden, Norway, and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland on December 13 in the saint’s honor. St. Lucia was an early Christian martyr killed by the Romans in 304 because of her religious beliefs.

Lucia celebrations represent one of the foremost cultural traditions in the Nordic countries, with their clear reference to life in the peasant communities of old: darkness and light, cold and warmth.

In remembrance of her role as the bearer of light in the dark Scandinavian winter, a young girl is chosen to wear a white gown and light in her hair, which in practice means a crown of candles in a wreath on her head. Each of her handmaidens carries a candle, too. The star boys, also dressed in white gowns, carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads. The brownies bring up the rear, carrying small lanterns. Traditional foods of the festival include ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavored buns (lussekatter) eaten with glögg or coffee.

 “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.”