St. Lucia Day: Date, History and Celebration
|St. Lucia Day. Photo:|
St. Lucia Day, also known as St. Lucy's Day, is held in honor of the woman said to have been one of the first Christian martyrs in history who was killed by the Romans in 304 CE because of her religious beliefs. St. Lucia's Day is observed on Sunday, December 13, 2020. St. Lucia Day plays an important role in Sweden, Norway. Globally, however, St. Lucia hasn't received the recognition that other martyrs, such as Joan of Arc, have.
The celebration of St. Lucia’s Day was first attested in the middle ages, after the Protestant Reformation in the 1520s to 30s. The date of December 13th, however, has its roots in pre-Christian mid-winter elements, which focus on the struggle between light and darkness. December 13th was the longest night of the year until the mid-18th century, and therefore it coincided with the Winter Solstice. In Sweden, November 13th called Lussinatta (the Lussi Night). Lussi is a evil, female being who rides through the heir with her followers, the Lussiferda. Between Lussi Night and Yule, evil spirits were active outside, and bad children had to be careful, else Lussi would come down the chimney and take them away.
Now, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland celebrate St. Lucia’s Day with a ceremony where a girl is elected to play Lucia. Lucia leads a procession of women, holding candles to symbolize the fire that failed to kill St. Lucia upon her death sentence. These women sing a song dedicated to Lucia, to the melody of the traditional Neapolitan song Santa Lucia. Each country has similar celebrations, with minor variations and origins.
In Sweden, the eldest daughter traditionally wakes up early, dons the Lucia costume, and wakes her family singing Sankta Lucia, giving them coffee and saffron buns. Public processions began in 1927, when a newspaper in Stockholm elected an official Lucia for Stockholm that year. Now, most cities elect their own Lucia to represent them yearly. Boys have joined the processions as well, as star boys, wearing white robes with cone-shaped hats decorated with golden stars; as the tomenissar, carrying lanterns; and as gingerbread men.
|Lucia costume. Photo: Bucket list 127|
Finland is still very traditional, as their observation of Luciadagen takes place the week before Winter Solstice, as St. Lucia is a “beacon of brightness in the darkest time of the year.” Though celebrated since 1898, the holiday didn’t really take off until 1930, and Finland began electing its own St. Lucia in 1949, crowning her at Helsinki Cathedral.
Luciadag in Denmark was directly imported from Sweden in 1944, by Franz Ward (secretary of the Nordic Association) as an attempt to bring light in a time of darkness—but also as a passive protest against the German occupation during World War II. Celebrations are very similar to Sweden, but are mostly more centered on Christianity.
Norway also considered Lussinatten as the longest night of the year, where spirits, gnomes, and trolls wandered the earth, and Lussi punished anyone who dared work before the Winter Solstice. After World War II, the modern-day celebration of St. Lucia Day was imported from Sweden, and adopted on a large scale—it has even been incorporated into the Advent liturgy of the Church of Norway, according to ueat.utoronto.
The St. Lucia Day festival of light also has symbolic overtones. During a dark winter in Scandinavia, the idea of light overcoming darkness and the promise of returning sunlight has been welcomed by the locals for hundreds of years. The celebrations and processions on Saint Lucia Day are illuminated by thousands of candles.
Traveling During St. Lucia Day
Though widely celebrated, St. Lucia Day is not a public holiday in Sweden or any other Scandinavian country; therefore, businesses are not required to close on this day. Instead, tourists will be delighted to find that the local businesses participate in the tradition, choosing their own St. Lucia and hosting concerts and the like.
On the morning of St. Lucia Day, tune into Sweden's annual broadcast of a concert and procession including celebrity guests. Join in on the celebration. Festive spirits abound, as reported by Tripsavvy.
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