Santa Lucia Celebrations in Sweden

According to legend, Lucia was a medieval saint who carried food and drink to hungry folk in the province of Värmland during a period of famine. She was seen across Lake Vänern with her white gown and crown of lights. Today's costume has the same gown and crown. The Lucia legend is said to have originated in Syracuse on the island of Sicily. A young girl, about to be a bride, gave her entire dowry to the poor of her village and admitted that she had become a Christian. She was accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake on December 13, 304 A.D.

Much later in history, the early Church made a saint out of her - Santa (Saint) Lucia. Italian artists sometimes picture her as a blind girl holding a lamp. She is a patron saint for Italian fishermen and she is said to help guide them home through the rough seas during a storm.

There are many legends about her and in each one Lucia stands as a symbol of light and hope to all mankind. Santa Lucia's coming begins the feasting, merriment, singing and the spirit of friendliness and goodwill that lasts all through the holidays.

In Sweden, the Lucia Day is celebrated all over the country in every home, school, and workplace on the morning of the 13th of December. All of the other Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway) celebrate Lucia as well. In each home usually the eldest daughter dresses in a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles. She and her sisters wake the family at dawn and serve them a breakfast of sun-colored saffron buns and gingerbread cookies. At each school, there is a gathering in the auditorium or gym first thing in the morning. The lights are dimmed and the Lucia and Lucia maids enter,
singing the old song "Santa Lucia".

At every workplace they make time for a special morning "coffee break" before the day even starts and a few ladies dress up as Lucias. At most public institutions, a table is laid ready with coffee, saffron buns and gingerbread cookies for the public to enjoy all that day. On this day, as well as around Christmas, a hot mulled drink called glögg is served.

In 1927, a prominent newspaper arranged for a Lucia competition and that is when the tradition started becoming more widespread and popular. This is how each "town" Lucia and the "Country's" Lucia are chosen. The "crowning" of the "town" Lucia takes place on the First Sunday of Advent after the raising of the Christmas tree in the center of the town square. This is also the first "Christmas Decoration Sunday". This means that all of the stores decorate for Christmas in their store front windows. Mostly all of the town's population gathers downtown for this event and they walk up and down the streets checking out the new decorations in the storefront windows. The "town" Lucia spreads a lot of joy by visiting all of the hospitals and all of the senior citizens' homes from the first of Advent until Christmas, making sure nobody is left out. Lucia brings a message of lighter times to come during the darkest time of the year. It is a very festive atmosphere, full of good feelings, hope, and expectations.

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