Wednesday 2 January 2013


St Lucia Celebrations

We are taking a small detour back to Christmas to look at a Swedish celebration that I had the opportunity to enjoy last month. As a background, it is celebrated on the 13th of December around the time of the winter solstice. Traditionally, the oldest girl of each family rises at dawn and dresses in a white gown with red sash. She wears an evergreen wreath on her head into which burning candles are embedded and she serves the family coffee and special buns. Other children also wear white with tinsel in their hair.

The tradition has both religious and pagan origins. The religious roots hark back to the Italian martyr Saint Lucia of the 300s who fed the poor and had her eyes torn out for consecrating her virginity to God.  Strangely the traditional song ‘Sankta Lucia’ is sung to the tune of a Neapolitan boating song. Lucia is also a pagan mystical figure, a bearer of light in the long, dark Swedish winters. Songs centred on this myth speak of the light dispelling or relieving the relentlessness of the dark.

St Lucia was celebrated beautifully by families who came together in Frenchs Forest last month. It was a relaxed affair with glogg (spiced mulled wine) and a range of traditional foods on offer including ginger snaps and saffron buns. The children took centre stage. Parents played games with them around the tree. The St Lucia parade with the children and their mothers followed, during which they sang a range of traditional Swedish songs. Then of course Santa came and handed out the presents.

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