On 13 December both grownups and children of all ages wake up early in the morning! It is the day when we celebrate Santa Lucia in Sweden! This special morning, around 06:00, everywhere one can see adults who are trying to get tired young children on the move, or in cars, with white long dresses, chandeliers and star boy cones! Or you can see people dressed up in white long dresses walking towards the location where they are supposed to light up the day for somebody! This is not as bad as it sounds; it is a long-awaited day that everyone has prepared carefully. Lucia performs both nationally, as Lucia of Sweden, but also in every town, every village, every school, every preschool, every hospital, every retirement home and at many working places. Everywhere where there is a group who wants to lighten up the day for others!
The preparations start long before 13 December. First, Lucia must be elected, which is done by voting between the girls who has offered to participate. Important requirement for the participants are that they must be able to sing! The candidates are presented in the local newspaper or in the grocery store a few weeks in advance and the local newspaper subscribers or customers are asked to vote for the candidates. The tradition says that Lucia should have long blond hair, but now days it is just as common with Lucia with brown or dark hair. The others who are not elected as Lucia become maids. Lucia is wearing a crown of candles on her head, a white long dress and a long red sash knitted around her waist with the ends hanging down in front. Lucia walks at the head of a procession of women and men, the maids and the star boys. Each maid is also dressed in white, and sometimes they have red sash as well. The maids hold a candle in their hand and have wreaths of green cranberry or occasionally tinsel on their heads. The star boys are also dressed in long white dresses and have a cone shaped white hat with golden stars on it on their head. They also have a stick with a golden star at the top of the stick in their hand.
Lucia celebration is an very important part of Christmas celebrations, and it a symbol for light and lighter days.
History of Lucia!
Lucia´s origin is difficult to identify and the celebration of Lucia has both pagan and Christian origin. By the years, the celebration has become a blend of different traditions. The origin is said to be traced both to the martyr Lucia in Sicily and to the myth of Adam´s first wife. Adams wife had links to the devil and her children became invisible. So, the word Lucia can be linked to both light and darkness, and the devil. In the Middle Ages, Lucia was the year's longest night according to the calendar used back then. People believed that evil forces were out and torn humans during that night. Therefore, it was best to stay awake and keep the candles lit the whole night.The night was therefore called "Lusse long night".
As the tradition comes from the old farming community it was custom that both the slaughter and threshing would be over by Lucia and sheds should be filled before Christmas. In agrarian society the younger people had their own traditions during the dark long night. They where going around from house to house and sang songs to raise money, begging for food and liquor. The songs where about liquor and gifts and was called "Staffan songs". Even today, Staffan songs are sung and it is said to have originated from this period. Later came the tradition of a female dressed in white who would be involved as part of the guarding. The woman would also have a candle wreath on her head to counteract the forces of darkness. The Holy Lucia has its Saint´s day on 13 December but there isn't any proof that the Swedish celebration have anything to do with the Holy Lucia. But at least, Lucia is one of the few festivals in the Scandinavian Protestant countries that may be linked to a saint: Saint Lucy, who died in the 300s as a martyr.
In the homes of the upper class, the with dressed Lucia appeared in late 1700s. Among the ordinary people it took until 1900 before it was a custom. When people moved to the cities, the old tradition with boys going around singing and begging lost in importance, and the white dressed Lucia with her singing entourage of star boys and maidens were consider a more worthy and finer celebration than the youtful antics. In 1972 Stockholm proclaimed the first Lucia. The custom of serving coffee and Lucia buns is dating to the 1880s, even though the buns had been baked long before that.
Our celebration is a mix of many traditions during time, and somewhere during time, hymns and Christmas carols was added to the Lucia celebration. In our time, we have preserved the white dressed women, the candles, the gifts, the hymns and the Christmas carols.
All Swedes can sing the Lucia song, as well as the others songs and sings along, sometimes more willingly than good!
Traditionally eating and drinks at Lucia celebration!
Important ingredients on this day is also a type of gingerbread cookies that we call Pepparkakor, or maybe you know them as Swedish Thins and something we call "lussecats"! It is a sweat bread with saffron,that is shaped like cats with eyes of raisins!
If you want a recipe or tips about Swedish Thins please follow this link!
To the cookies, juice, Swedish or coffee is served.
Children celebrating Saint Lucia
I remember my daughter’s first Lucia celebration at her nursery school when she was three years old. I can assure you that it is a very moving performance! Preschool teachers have trained and have been singing Lucia songs with the children that are of ages between 1 and 6 years for several weeks as a daily song routine. At this age, it is of course no requirement that the children must be good or perform well, it is more an experience for them and a great start for learning an old tradition. But as a parent it is the most moving scene one can see. Since you know how beautiful this celebration is when adults perform, seeing children perform the Lucia celebration is a wonderful experience. As a parent one alter between laughing and crying!
In a Lucia train with adults there is only one Lucia and the rest are maids. But when children celebrate Lucia, anyone who wants can be Lucia. And there is no candlelight, but electric light. Traditionally boys are supposed to be star boys with star hats with the form of cones and a stick with a golden star on. But boys can also choose to be Lucia or maids if the want to, as well as girls can choose to be star boys. Other characters in the Lucia train can be gingerbread men/women, elves, Santa’s elves or bakers.
So, one leaves the child to preschool teachers with the child’s chosen suit and sits down as a spectator and wait.
And there they come; an adorable collection of mini Lucia’s with the Lucia crown askew, star boys who is waving or dragging the stars instead of holding them upright, Santa’s elves, padding in socks with enlarge hoods or the hoods askew.
The smallest children sing along as best as they can, and watch the somewhat older children who can the lyrics.
Here is a video with Lucia celebration. The video will give you a view of how it is supposed to be, when it is properly done!
The Staffan Song!
The Staffan Song is a very special song and are sung by the star boys. Staffan in the song was according to the legend Herod the Great´s stableman. It is a Nordic and English story about the martyr Saint Stephen. The lyric describe how Staffan discovers the star over Bethlehem while he attends to the five horses in the stable and the song also praise the five horses for their good qualities. During time the old Staffan song has been modernized and the video below is an example of a modern Staffan song!
The Lucia song!
The many songs sung by Lucia is much about the same theme, darkness and light! Here is the first verse in the traditional Lucia song that is sung when Lucia enters and leave the room:
"The night is heavy footsteps
around the farm and stow.
Around the earth, the sun forgave;
Then in our dark house
Rises with lit candles
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia "
Other songs that are sung are hymns and Christmas songs. Some of the songs are quite and solemn, while others are happy and funny. I hope you will enjoy the videos!
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on January 26, 2013:
Acaetnna, Thank you for the kind words and I wish the best for you and yours during 2013 too!
acaetnna from Guildford on January 05, 2013:
Wonderful, a brilliant read. Thank you. Happy 2013 to you and your family.
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 20, 2012:
elle64,I am so glad to hear you had a wonderful Lucia day! It is special to hear and see and I am amazed by the experience every year:) i appreciate your comment and it is interesting to hear!
elle64 from Scandinavia on December 14, 2012:
I saw it yesterday ,and It always touches my heart. My girls looked so pretty, and the songs opened to the sky. It is almost a spiritual experience -Love and light E
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 09, 2012:
Teagan, Yes it is and it is getting really close now:) I look forward to it this special day every year,
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 06, 2012:
Ellen, I saw a video from the St. Lucia celebration in NEw York and it really sounded just like our celebration! So I know you will have a great December 13 there too. But I hope you get the chance to celebrate this day in Sweden since it is a very special day for us. Thanks for the comment, it is great to know that Lucia is celebrated in this way in so many places after all!
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 06, 2012:
Freddy, I am glad you liked the Swedish songs! Thanks!
teagan on December 03, 2012:
it is a important day of the year
ellen on November 29, 2012:
I'm of Swedish ancestry living in NYC, NY. I just love the traditional St. Lucia celebration, it's soo beautiful, it makes me so proud. There are few traditions that are as festive and meaningful as St Lucia. One day I hope to celebrate it in Sweden, until then I'll celebrate in New York.
freddy on November 28, 2012:
i need to hear more
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on November 25, 2012:
Hi chef-de-jour, so interesting to hear and it makes me glad to know that Swedes and others from northern Scandinavia likes to keep the tradition alive wherever they are:) Lucia is lovely to see, beautiful and atmospheric. I am so glad to know you liked this! Thanks for reading and for the comment
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on November 25, 2012:
Hi Made, Yes, Lucia is really something to look forward to! And every year, at this time a few weeks before Lucia, I am equally amazed over the compact darkness. We better make sure we have our white gowns ironed in time and the candles and some Lussekatter and Pepparkakor ready :) Thanks Made, for the uplifting comment, it is good to hear positive words from someone so familiar with the tradition! I hope everything is well with you and your family and stay warm in the cold!
Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on November 20, 2012:
Thank you for this. Santa Lucia angels came visiting my room one evening as I was settling down to watch a movie! A Swedish lady had arranged a group of singers at the college I was at - they would go from room to room singing for a few seconds then move on.
How delightful it was. Candle carrying angels singing - I had to turn the t.v. off in a flash!
Madeleine Salin from Finland on November 20, 2012:
What would Christmas time be without Lucia? It's a wonderful tradition and you have described it very well in this hub. Thank you for writing this. I really enjoyed reading it and now there's only a few weeks left before we can enjoy some Lussekatter again. :)
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on February 07, 2012:
Hi Mandy, and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! It is great to know you liked this!
Mandy132 on February 06, 2012:
This is really cool! Thank for all the work you put into this!
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 12, 2011:
Hi Sofia, I do not really know how you mean but lingonberries are present during Advent and Christmas in one way or the other. On Lucia it is common to eat cakes with lingonberry as an ingredient since it goes well with spices like cardamom or saffron. It is also delicious in combination with chocolate in cakes. Another way that we use lingonberry is for making wreaths or crowns instead of using tinsel. A real Lucia crown is usually decorated with lingonberry. Apart from that are lingonberries also one of the ingredients on a Swedish Julbord or Christmas dinner. Lingonberries are very common in Sweden and we eat it all around the year in every possible combination. I hope this answer your question, if not, please let me know!
Sofia on December 11, 2011:
why do they eat lingonberries for Santa Lucia.
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 09, 2011:
Hi, Lucia! What a beautiful name, you have every reason to be proud!
Thanks for reading and leaving a comment:)
Lucia on December 09, 2011:
I'm called after Saint Lucia, and I'm proud of it (: Really liked this!
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on July 23, 2011:
Hi laral, How interesting to hear about the Italian celebration of Saint Lucia! I hope you write a hub about it, it would be so interesting to know how Santa Lucia is celebrated in Italy. I imagine it differs a little from our way of celebrating. As I wrote in the hub the origin of our celebration of Saint Lucia is a bit unclear and it is probably a mix of different influences. I want to travel to the Mediterranean countries, I have been to Greece and the island Cyprus but never Italy so that still remains:)
Thanks for stopping by and I will be thinking of you and the Italian celebration of Saint Lucia on the 13th of December!
laral from England on July 22, 2011:
What a wonderful hub!! I am in love with Scandinavian countries and I truly enjoyed reading this article!! You are a super good writer too! Please keep me informed about everything Swedish. Unfortunately I cannot come over there for sometime but I will sooner or later!! I am Italian and in my mother's home town guess what? In December the biggest celebration it is not Christmas day...in Saint Lucia's day. Children receive presents the 13th of December. My mum is from a town called Mantova in Northen Italy.
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 13, 2010:
Hi AliciaC! I have been to a Lucia celebration today, and it was just as amazing as it is every year! I am happy to share it, and glad you liked the hub. Thanks for taking the time reading and for your comment!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 12, 2010:
Thanks for describing the lovely traditions of this holiday and for sharing the music.
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 12, 2010:
Hi, kephira! To celebrate Lucia in this way is mostly done in some of the Scandinavian countries; in Sweden and Norway and also in some parts of Danmark and Finland. For others I imagine that it is pretty unknown.
I am happy that you found it interesting. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment!
kephrira from Birmingham on December 12, 2010:
Very interesting, I'd never heard of this before.
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on December 01, 2010:
Hi meteoboy, I am very pleased that you liked the music. I am equally touched each year by Lucia songs! Swedish isn´t exactly an easy language, but my hope was that the feeeling from the music and the Christmas spirit would shine trough anyway. I do appreciate your comment!
meteoboy from GREECE on December 01, 2010:
So nice music and videos , they touch our soul!!! Thank you for this excellent hub. I would like to celebrate the Santa Lucia there.Really thank you.
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on November 24, 2010:
Hi Tony! Glad you liked it here in Sweden, and since you where here in May, you certinly picked the most beautiful season! Sweden is a lovely place to be in the spring, and around the 1st May, there is much choral singing to greeth the warmth of Maj! Thanks for stopping by!
Tony McGregor from South Africa on November 24, 2010:
I love Sweden and most things Swedish. I was there for two weeks some years ago and loved it. I was able to wander around Stockholm, I was in Uppsala for 1st May, and just loved the people and places. Got to hear some great music too.
Thanks for sharing about this.
Love and peace
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on November 20, 2010:
Happy to see you here Prasetio!How great that you got a little Christmas spirit from Lucia! Althoug I have seen many Lucia through the years, it is as wonderful and moving each year. It is both all these candles and the beautiful singing that gives the feeling! Thanks very much for your comment and appreciation!
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 19, 2010:
Another great hub from you. I found the spirit Christmas from this hub. I believe Santa Lucia is totally beautiful and amazing. I really enjoy to read this hub. I give my vote for you.
Christina Lornemark (author) from Sweden on November 16, 2010:
Hello Carrie! It´s funny with traditions, and sometimes they have emerged from different and strange ways! But they are very important! Thanks for your appreciation!
carrie450 from Winnipeg, Canada on November 15, 2010:
Very nice tradititions thougtforce. I will check out the videos too. Great hub and well written.