December 13 in Sweden is known as Lucia, which is in English St. Lucy’s Day. In Italy it’s Saint Lucia. We celebrate this day quite heavily in Sweden, though I couldn’t quite tell you why, since Saint Lucia was an Italian saint and really has no relation to Sweden. Our holiday seems to be a combination of Winter Solstice, Saint Lucia and some old superstitions.

The most basic part of it, is probably the need to bring light into the darkness – since this time of year is quite dark in Sweden, with few hours of daylight. Lucia is a woman wearing a wreath with candles, and she is followed by maidens holding a single candle in their hands. These days there are also men/boys in the group.


Originally it was just a procession of the Lucia and her maidens and men, all dressed in a white, flowing dress. These days, you will probably see little gingerbread people, Santa’s helpers and possibly other things too. It’s tradition to hold a Lucia train in schools, and most towns have an official vote on the town’s Lucia nominations. Each school with have their own little trains with all of the kids – but then you have the official one which usually visits all of the nursery homes and possibly some of the bigger companies.

In my home town there was then a big scene built in the town square and in the evening of Lucia everyone would gather there, to see Lucia and her followers arriving. There’s always singing, I think I forgot to mention. Some are regular Christmas songs, but there a few that are specific to the holiday.

The Lucia celebration in a special one. If you’re in the audience at a school, you may be sitting in the auditorium with the lights out, leaving the room dark. Then you will hear the singing from a distance, growing louder and louder – and then you see the light coming closer. As the procession, with Lucia at the front, comes into the room – it’s a special feeling. The beautiful singing, the lights… It’s difficult to explain – I think you’d have to experience it.

Then of course there’s the traditional fare: luciabuns and gingerbread cookies. Some people will drink mulled wine (glögg in Swedish), while the younger generation (or people like myself who don’t like glögg) will drink a special soft drink available at Christmas.

Actually, ignore everything I’ve just written. There’s a YouTube video that explains it all much better!


Lucia — 2 Comments

  1. When our museum had the Viking exhibit, I read on the part about religion that the Scandinavians never truly embraced Christianity, but more they paid lip service to it (as a whole, I am sure there are some people who are religious), as in the vikings still used their old religious imagery, but slightly altered things so they were crosses instead of axes, etc. So it would totally make sense that Lucia is a pagan tradition you guys kept by putting a saint’s name on it!

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