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13 December 2011

Swedish Lucia Celebrations A Surprise To Foreigners


The 13th of December Sweden celebrates the festival of Lucia. This is an important day of light in the dark Swedish winter.

Old tradition
The tradition is over 1000 years old, from the time when we had another calendar and the night between the 12th and 13th of December was the darkest night of the year. People thought this long night was very dangerous, with ghosts and spirits everywhere, and it became a sport among young men to show courage and get up early, when it was still dark. Eventually they started to dress in white gowns. Lucia herself was introduced later and goes back to Saint Lucia from Syracuse, but no one knows for certain how an Italian Saint came to be so popular in this Swedish tradition.

Modern Lucia
Today a “Luciatåg” consists of the Lucia herself and her entourage of young men and women. They all wear white gowns and hold candles, and Lucia has crown of greens with candles in it. Children often use a crown with battery lights, for safety. Every town and school in Sweden selects a Lucia and arranges a “Luciatåg”, and in the morning of the Day of Lucia groups of “Luciatåg” visit classrooms, hospitals and other places and sing traditional songs. In the image above you can see my granddaughter, daughter of the kalmstrom.com CEO, dressed up as a Lucia.

Surprise for Nobel prize winners
The same week as Lucia is celebrated, the Swedish Academy awards the Nobel prizes in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, and it is a tradition to surprise the prize winners with a “Luciatåg” early in the morning on the 13th. Lucia and her entourage come singing to the hotel rooms of the prize winners and offer them coffee and traditional bread with saffron.

The tradition is upheld by Swedes abroad, and I have seen Swedish children in a "Luciatåg" singing the Lucia songs in the streets of Malaga, surrounded by astonished Spaniards. To me the music of the Lucia celebrations is a great joy ‒ and I don’t mind eating the bread either!

Kate Kalmström
CCO
kalmstrom.com Business Solutions