sankt luciadag – happy belated Santa Lucia

happy belated santa lucia to all you scandi’s out there! i can’t believe december 13th flew right by. i’m balancing candles on my head, and putting on my white gown and red sash as we speak!

above is swedish painter carl larsson‘s depiction of the tradition where candles symbolize the fire that refused to take st. lucia’s life when she was sentenced to be burned. traditionally the oldest daughter leads a procession of the girls of the family, serving saffron buns and tea, and singing a lucia song while entering the room. the song is actually to the melody of the traditional neapolitan song santa lucia; the italian lyrics describe the view from santa lucia in naples ( i still don’t know how this song was adopted by the northern countries for their celebration), the various scandinavian lyrics are fashioned for the occasion, describing the light with which lucia overcomes the darkness.

natten går tunga fjät (the night walks with heavy steps)
or santa lucia, ljusklara hägring (saint lucy, bright mirage).

st. lucia is one of few saints celebrated by the overwhelmingly lutheran scandinavian peoples (swedes, norwegians, danes, finns). st. lucia’s day celebrations retain many indigenous germanic pagan, pre-christian midwinter elements, and the practices associated with the day, predates the adoption of christianity in scandinavia, and is like much of scandinavian folklore, and even religiosity today, based on the annual struggle between light and darkness. by kl