Each year on the 13th day of December we celebrate Lucia in Sweden.
On St. Lucia’s day you will see thousands of young girls emerge from the darkness of a Swedish winters day and gently silence the crowds with a procession of light.
Dressed as Lucia’s maidens, in flowing white gowns, each girl holds a candle and wears a wreath of glowing candles in her hair. Witness the charm of the children solemnly proceeding through cities, towns and churches, giving out saffron buns and singing Lucia’s beautiful melodies, dressed as gingerbread men, elves and stjärngossar.
For many, many years Lucia has brought faith, hope, and a reason to believe in good things to come. Her legend stems from Syracuse on the island of Sicily. It is thought that during a time when the rulers of the land did not look favorably upon Christianity, a woman named Lucia had devoted her life to God and the poor. She gave her entire dowry to the poor, and the man she was to marry was very upset by this. Lucia was put on trial, refused to renounce her Christian beliefs and was declared a witch. She was to be burned at the stake but when the guards tried to light the fire it would not light. Ultimately, she was stabbed.
There are many theories on how the legend of Lucia came to Sweden. It could have been brought by priests, German traders or even by the Vikings in their adventures to southern Europe. No one knows just how it evolved into the uniquely Swedish tradition it is today, and there are many versions of a Swedish Sankta Lucia story.
One popular version is a story of a terrible famine many years ago. On December 13th a well-lit ship on Lake Vänern approached the shore carrying a woman at the helm dressed in white with a glow around her head. Having heard the Italian version the starving people thought it could be Saint Lucia coming to save them from this terrible famine.
Many Swedes believe that the Swedish version of the legend has to do only with the fact that Lucia comes from the root word “Lux” which means light.