Enjoy Not Knowing

Just another American living in Sweden

lucia: tales and traditions



Happy Lucia everyone! Or Saint Lucy’s Day, as we say in English. Apparently, my sources tell me, Lucia is celebrated mostly in Sweden and Norway, but is also observed in one way or another in Denmark and Finland…and a few other countries in Europe. My sources also tell me it’s one of the few saint days observed in Scandinavia.

I have now been in Sweden for two Lucias (not counting today). From what I understand of the tradition, a girl is elected (possibly out of her class at school, or by the city, depending on the planned venue of the tradition). My first winter in Sweden Evelina and I were in Eskilstuna for Lucia. We saw the city’s Lucia celebration, where the elected girl leads a “train” (direct translation), or procession, of both boys and girls. The elected girl portrays Lucia and wears a white gown with a red sash. Upon Lucia’s head burns a wreath of candles.  The red is to represent blood, the wreath of candles represent the fire that was to burn Lucia when she was sentenced to death. The procession sings traditional Lucia songs, which, when viewing the procession the first time without an understanding of Swedish, have a chilling air to them. Now that I know Swedish, the chilling air is only magnified by the meaning of the lyrics. All the participants of the procession wear white robes, but it is only Lucia who has a red sash, the others wear black. The girls, aside from Lucia, wear wreaths with no candles, and the boys wear white cone-shaped hats with gold stars on them.

The story behind Lucia is that she is a saint from Sicily whose death was rather tragic. When Lucia saw an angel in a dream she became a devout Christian, she was denounced by Roman authorities, but despite their threats refused to renounce her beliefs. The authorities were going to drag her off to a brothel, but Lucia refused to move, and the authorities could not move her, even with a thousand men and fifty oxen pulling her. Instead they stacked timber around her and prepared to burn her where she stood. Lucia was not perturbed, and continued to preach her Christian beliefs. That was when one of the Roman soldiers stuck a spear through her throat to keep her from speaking. This did not kill her, however, she was only able to die after being given the Christian sacrament.

Lucia is celebrated on December 13th because this was once considered the shortest day of the year. The 8 day difference is possibly accounted for with use of the Julian calendar (in the 14th century) – when winter solstice would have fallen on December 13th. Then when the switch was made to the Gregorian calendar the 13th stuck. Although if you ask me, it’s pretty damn dark for the whole of December, so I’m not sure how anyone can tell the difference.

This year we have a hockey game, so we weren’t able to go into the city and see the Lucia traditions. Otherwise you would have been graced with awesome pics. Now the Microsoft Word image above will have to suffice…and feel free to use your imagination. We did however get awesome lussekatter and gingerbread cookies to eat in celebration of the day.

snacks - lucia

P.S. I do not claim any of this information to be 100% accurate. This is the corroboration of an assortment of different stories that I have heard from Swedes, as well as some wiki information (because what’s a story without some wiki-facts?) So please don’t be offended if this is entirely wrong. It’s just…y’know, word on the street.


4 thoughts on “lucia: tales and traditions

  1. Tjej! I used to think Lucia was so pretty but the spear in the throat kind of ruined it for me. Well, that and the fact that I spent many hours cleaning up all the glitter from Lucia when I worked at Konsert and Kongress in LKPG.

  2. Pingback: happy lucia! | Enjoy Not Knowing

  3. Pingback: lucia | Enjoy Not Knowing

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