Today is the 13th December, a day when, in Sweden we celebrate “Lucia”. It is an old tradition which has it’s name from the Italian saint who died a martyr in the 3rd century.
Lucia would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. The word Lucia comes from the latin word ‘lux’ which means ‘light’ so this is a very appropriate name.
December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, according to the ‘Julian’ Calendar. And what this tradition so importantly brings to us up in the north, is light during the long, dark winter.
The tradition doesn’t have much in common with this saint, but for us it is more of a pre-christmas celebration. A (young) woman with a red ribbon around her waist and candles in her hair, is walking at the head of a procession of women, each holding a candle all dressed in white, singing ‘Lucia songs’. Men can also participate as ‘Stjarngossar’ (star boys) and when children join in they can also dress up as ‘Tomtenissar’ (Santas elves/helpers) or as gingerbread men. They usually bring ‘glogg’ (mulled wine) pepparkakor (gingerbread biscuits) and ‘Lussebullar’ (saffron buns)
This Lucia celebration takes place in pre-schools, schools, churches, hospitals and many workplaces all around our country. It’s also broadcast on TV from the major celebrations.
I understand that to outsiders it sounds like a very strange tradition. My husband still thinks it’s quite weird.
I think that, as with many traditions, if you didn’t grow up with it, you won’t quite ‘get it’. And that’s fine.
But I miss it.
I miss seeing kids all excited and dressed up, in the early hours to sing at their pre-school with their parents there to watch.
I miss the songs they sing.
I miss going to church, really, really early to see Lucia with her procession and hear the beautiful music.
I miss the light that it brings.
Every year it kind of sneaks up on me, and I never plan for anything. One year I hope to be organised enough to manage to book a ticket to the celebration in the Swedish church in London. One day.
But today, in honour of this tradition, I’m having my own celebration today with ‘Glogg’ ‘Lussebulle’ and ‘Pepparkaka’