A Swedish St. Lucia Celebration
We celebrate the Festival of St. Lucia every December 13 with our Swedish friends, bringing light to the darkness of winter with candles, music, and fun. Experiences like these are precious for teaching my children about the world and respecting other cultures.
To create your own Lucia Fest you’ll need a Lucia Candle Crown, plenty of Glögg (special holiday drink), pepparkakor (ginger snaps), Lussekatt buns (saffron-infused Lucia buns), and risgrynsgrot (rice porridge). Oh, and to figure out how these delicious treats are made, you’ll need a good Swedish cookbook.
December 13th was the original Winter Solstice according to the old Julian calendar. This dark, shortest day of the year was once a pagan festival of lights then later it became St. Lucia’s Day.
The name Lucia (or Lucy) means “light” and St. Lucia is the patron saint of the blind. It is said that before she was tortured and killed for her Christian beliefs, she wore a crown of lit candles (to light her way but keep her hands free) while secretly delivering food to persecuted Christians in Rome in the fourth century.
Today, the eldest daughter in a Swedish family wears a Lucia Candle Crown (battery-powered candles for younger girls and real ones for girls age 12 or older) and a long white gown with a red sash tied around her waist while singing traditional Lucia songs.
Larger celebrations are held throughout Scandinavia and some parts of Europe. For larger celebrations in schools and churches, one young lady is chosen to lead a procession of girls all wearing white gowns, crowns made from lingonberry branches, and carrying a candle but only the girl in the front wears the red sash and candles on her crown. Traditionally, behind the ‘Tärnor’ (girls without the candle crown), come the ‘Stjärngossar’ (Star Boys) wearing white robes and pointy hats decorated with yellow stars. Probably because the pointy hats look too much like dunce caps or something too close to a klu klux clan get-up, many boys now also dress up as Santa’s helpers or Gingerbread Men.
Popular foods eaten on St. Lucia’s day are ‘Pepparkakor’ or gingerbread cookies, ‘Lussekatts’, slightly sweet St Lucia’s day buns flavored with saffron and dotted with raisins, and Risgrynsgort (creamy rice porridge that is served warm and sprinkled with cinnamon). Topping it all off is warm Glögg, a sweet and spicy mulled wine with raisins in it.
Included in this post are photos from this year and last of the very proud, beautiful Lucia girl. Special thanks to dear Julia and her family for including us in their celebration.