Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sankta Lucia, aka "Saint Lucy"

December 13th marks the celebration of Sankta Lucia in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. This is an annual celebration that has taken place for many years throughout this country, and Jo and I were fortunate enough to be invited such a performance at Astradskolan. When I asked Julle and Daniel where this tradition stemmed from and who this “Lucia” was, they both said she was a young Italian girl who had been burned as a martyr. I didn’t quite understand the Italian-Swedish connection, so naturally I did a little research.
Sankta Lucia girls and Starboys at Astradskolan
According to Wikipedia (where I get all of my information) Saint Lucy, Sankta Lucia, is believed to be a young Sicilian saint who suffered as a martyr. Her legend goes back into the Middle Ages where she had been seeking help for her mother’s long-term illness. After becoming a devout Christian, she vowed to remain a virgin despite marriage and thus was denounced by her betrothed. The date of December 13th traces back to Sicilian Catholics in which large feasts of traditional homemade Italian dishes are eaten in memory of Saint Lucy’s averting of a famine. In Italy, it is also common for children to receive gifts on the night between December 12th and 13th.
Saint Lucy is on of few saints celebrated by the Lutheran-Scandinavian people. This celebration is an adaptation of Christian and pagan beliefs and is based strongly on the yearly struggle between light and darkness in which the winter solstice brings. The tradition of Sankta Lucia has become imbedded in the Swedish culture and is often practiced within individual homes. Typically, the eldest daughter is crowned “Lucia”, wearing a long white robe tied with a red ribbon at the waist and a wreath-like crown topped with candles. Younger girls will accompany her with white dresses tied with tinsel at the waist, while the “star boys” wear white robes, cone hats, and carry stars. It is traditional for the Sankta Lucia procession to sing holiday songs and serve Lussekatter (Lucia buns) with coffee.
Lussekatter and coffee :)
At the school’s celebration, Tomten, better known in America as “Santa”, made his debut. The celebration of Sankta Lucia begins on December 13th (12 days before Christmas) and this holiday season will end on January 6th (12 days after Christmas).

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