December 14, 2009

Lucia Day!

Christmas is blossoming  here on the blog!
I'm one day late in writing about this, but I thought I'd tell you about another Swedish December tradition, this one maybe slightly more fascinating than the Advent candle holders. Or so I hope at least:)
This time, I did my background research, and though Lucia is not only celebrated in Sweden, it's definitely not as popular anywhere else as here. So here we go!

(Saint Lucy's Day)
Celebrated on the 13th of December

So this basically goes way back to 300 AD in Syracuse, Italy. Lucia was a woman who helped Christians hiding in the catacombs during the Roman empire. As she walked through dark caves with supplies for the people hiding there, she needed her hands free to carry. As she couldn't see anything for the darkness, she solved it by putting a crown of candles on her head.
After her death, she was made saint, and she has become a sort of symbol for light, and therefore it might be understandable how this particular tradition, in the dark month of December in Sweden, has become a very important and celebrated one.

It's celebrated in two different versions depending on who's participating: The children or the grown-ups.

The grown up version is supposed to be only with women in the group, all dressed in white traditional long night gowns. Lucia walks in front of the group, leading them through the darkness (they're all holding real lit candles in their hands, except for Lucia who has the candle crown on her head), singing a selection of very old and traditional songs acapella. Who gets chosen to be Lucia is similar to some kind of pageant, and she's going to have to risk her hair catching fire (even though there are usually big safety measures taken), as well as afterwards getting rid of a lot of dried wax that run down her hair during the celebration.
The overall impression of the 'Luciatag' is very cozy and beautiful.

                                                    Mini Lucia!  (pictures from LinusLotta)

The kids version is a bit less uptight and fun. The real candles are exchanged for electric ones, and both boys and girls participate. In addition to the nightgowns, the children aldo dress out as Gingerbread people (my favorites) and Santa's helpers. This is a big deal in kindergarden and elementary school, and the children spend weeks rehearsing the songs and the movements for the final 'performance' on the 13th,  for which all the parents and relatives invited.

                                                   Gingerbread Man! (pictures from LinusLotta)


Here's a video of grownies to give an idea...

It's a bit hard to explain all this, but all I can say is that it's really special and kind of magical.

On the 13th, the streets are full of people and kids wearing white and funny hats, and it's now we know that Christmas is really on it's way!


pennycones said...

I haven't heard of this celebration but how fantastic and fun does it sound!

Those kids are so cute too. Bless.

Kristin said...

OMG, the little gingerbread man. How cute is that??? My hubs is of Swedish origin. I wonder if he knows about this?

suzie said...

You are right, I've never heard of it before, but it sounds magical!

TheCluelessCrafter said...

Beautiful tradition. I think I've just connected the dots and want to share! I've seen that white dress with the red sash before. It was on an American girl doll named "Kirsten" who is Scandanavian, right?

Anyways, my mom purchased a dress to match my doll, so I guess I used to dress up for St. Lucia day!

Hermione said...

Haha, that is right, they have that on American Girl, forgot about that! So funny! I guess you unknowingly celebrated Lucia then:) I should find that dress and add it to the post or something..

Glad to share these random traditions. If you ever for some reason would find yourself in Sweden or close to a Swedish Church on Dec 13, I suggest taking part of this, it really is special.

Sum said...

I used to sing this in choir EVERY year during the Christmas season. Brings back so many memories. Love the song.

Hermione said...

That's so cool Sum! I think it sounds great with all the harmonies, don't you?

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