Sunday, December 13, 2015

Third Sunday In Advent And Sankta Lucia Day ~ A Swedish Festival of Lights

As I lit the three candles for the third Sunday in Advent, I thought back to July when I started to crochet some very small gifts for very few friends, and I thought I had all the time in the world. Well, I'm finally done, as of this morning, and today I spent wrapping gifts and putting them in those prepaid priority mail boxes and envelopes. I'm off to the post office tomorrow to mail them with a few other things. 

Rachael is coming up on the 24th, as we planned, and Kenny and Monique and their girls
are coming on the 27th. Then the tenants in the Los Angeles house want to come and spend a day with me around that time as well. I don't know if they want to know about my plans for selling the house or tell me their plans, but they are nice people and my husband, who knew them best, was very fond of them, so they are welcome. 

I'm having some ridiculous problems with this new monitor and will call HP tomorrow. At least I managed to open it today. 

Last year, I did a pretty comprehensive post about Saint Lucy and the Swedish tradition of celebrating Sankta Lucia Day, a festival of lights, which takes place at this, the darkest time of the year in the far north. I believe it doesn't hurt to revisit traditions, so I am posting it again:


Many of you read my Sankta Lucia posts in prior years. This time, I decided to combine the 2012 and 2013 posts and add some background to the Sankta Lucia customs in Sweden. If you read this for the first time, I hope you will enjoy learning about Saint Lucy and the tradition of the Festival of Light celebrations held in Sweden on her Saint's Day. 

Me as Sankta Lucia in the 1940s

Throughout history, people in the Nordic countries have celebrated light in the dark and cold of the approaching winter solstice. 

In the old calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year. It was also the most dangerous. A night when animals could speak and fairies, trolls, and giants roamed the forests. In the countryside, young people would dress up in costumes and go from house to house, singing songs, eating and drinking with their neighbors. The custom of a Lucia dressed in white was first recorded in 1764, but didn't become popular until the 19th century. 

The tradition continues today. On December 13th, Santa Lucia Day is celebrated in Sweden with festivals of light across the country. And at the darkest time of year, people are reminded that our earth will soon begin to turn toward the light of spring.

According to tradition, the eldest daughter in the family, wearing a white dress with a red sash and a crown of candles, brings coffee and Lucia buns (lussekatter) to her parents in bed. 

Yes, that's me as Sankta Lucia with a crown of real candles on my head! (I did have a wet napkin on my hair, underneath the crown.) The girl and her court of younger siblings sing the old Neapolitan song Sankta Lucia in a translation that celebrates light coming to this dark season. This tradition continues in Swedish homes today, but with battery operated candles, I'm sure.

Lucia buns

Sankta Lucia is crowned in schools, churches, and communities all over Sweden and processions are held with the Queen of Light leading her court. Everyone holds candles and sings the Sankta Lucia song.  

Source: Google Images

Sankta Lucia, or Saint Lucy, was a Sicilian woman who was martyred in the year 304 AD. A common story suggests that she would secretly bring food to persecuted Christians who lived in the catacombs of Rome and, in order to keep her hands free, she wore a crown of candles on her head. 

Another legend tells us that she consecrated her virginity to God through pious works. After she refused to marry her betrothed, a pagan man, he became infuriated and reported her to the authorities. When guards came to arrest her, she was so filled with the Holy Spirit that they couldn't move her, even with a team of oxen. The guards then gathered materials around her and set them on fire, but she didn't burn. In medieval accounts, Saint Lucy's eyes are gouged prior to her execution and she is often depicted in art carrying her eyes on a tray.

Saint Lucy, by Domenico Beccafumi, in a 1521 recasting of an iconic Gothic image. It was said that Saint Lucy was tortured with eye gouging, hence this rather disturbing image. The picture, as well as some of the history of Saint Lucy, are courtesy Wikipedia. 

Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. Her name is derived from Lux, Latin for light, and she is presented with light in art and literature.  Saint Lucy is one of only seven women, aside from the Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass


A Note:

The coffee cups I carry in the second picture above, belonged to my maternal grandmother and they now have a home here with me.*

My maternal grandmother

* Last spring, I gave the cups to a family member because she helped me so much and I also knew she would take good care of them. Giving away good things to family and donating more to our local thrift stores has been very healing for me. 


  1. sorry you're having such trouble with the monitor. i thought of you today when i realized it was dec 13th (i always remember saint lucia day as it is also a friend's birthday.) :)

  2. Hi Inger - well done for getting past the glitchy monitor - hope it gets sorted for you. I loved your Sankta Lucia posts ... they tell us of Swedish customs - wonderful to have those memories and I love the photos of you. I'm glad you gave your precious coffee cups to someone who will love them dearly ...

    So pleased Rachael is coming on the 24th and then Kenny and Monique are coming up after Christmas ... and your tenants ... that's good - have a peaceful blessed time ... with many thoughts - Hilary

  3. I'm glad you will have some nice company at Christmas. I love the coffee cups but giving things away can be very good.

  4. I find your account of Santa Lucia and the traditions you have in Sweden very moving. One of my closest childhood friends had a Swedish background and I remember her telling me about wearing the crown of candles in church. But my oh my the detail about the gouging of her eyes makes a rather ugly turn for such a beautiful tradition! I agree with you that it was a good and a healing thing to have given the treasured cups to a special person. Your plans for Christmas sound exactly right.

  5. Thanks for the recap on St Lucia. I remember learning about St Lucia when I was a young girl going to a Catholic School run by the nuns in our parish. You were such a cute little girl.
    Christmas will soon be here and the new year will be upon us.

  6. What a lovely (and dangerous) tradition. You look pretty and so angelic in the pictures. It is wonderful that you are having folks over during the holidays and will enjoy the company of loved ones.

  7. Some of my extended family also celebrated. There were three St. Lucys this year.
    Boy, I would have worried about wearing candles in my hair - with a napkin even.

  8. I love the last pic of your grandmother, i love old photos even when I don't know them. the coffee cups are beautiful and the second pic of you with them is wonderful. i did the same as you, gave the family things to my niece because she is all about saving our history and keeps things forever. also let her have my grandmothers hope chest with all the treasures. i wish i loved closer so i could go through them. she is 10 hours away.

  9. This is a lovely post! I didn't know about this day or Saint Lucy. Love the idea of celebrating light on the darkest day of the year. That's really lovely. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  10. So sad about Saint Lucia -- Men have been horrendous to women and to those who believe differently than they. :-( I'm glad that you will company you will enjoy on Christmas. Sometimes new computers and their monitors seem intent on driving us to distraction. I missed Samson in your header. I loved the photo of you as Saint Lucia. Does God super-impose our faces as children over our adult faces? Healing Christmas, Roland

  11. Thank you for posting it again! Such a lovely tradition. The sweet picture of you is so valuable. Wishing you the best, Inger.

  12. I remember the St Lucia post from before, Inger, but I like reading about traditions. My cousin was St Lucia in elementary school as she was a blonde, blue-eyed girl. She loved being chosen for that role. I've been giving away things too to fit into our smaller abode now - less for me to clean and I am quite happy in our new neighborhood, too. Enjoy your visitors, and look for an ecard from me soon.

  13. Your grandmother is really dressed up beautifully for the picture. Thanks for sharing your traditions.

  14. Hello Inger. I'm so glad you have company coming for the holidays. We did not make korv this year, but a lot of friends will be here for a Christmas Eve smorgie! If you sell your home, where do you want to go?

  15. This is a lovely post, Inger, and I remember the St Lucia post from before.
    Sounds so beautiful this tradition of Light celebrations held in Sweden on her Saint's Day.
    Love the photo of you as St Lucia in the 1940s and the photo of your maternal grandmother too.
    So pretty the coffee cups and so sweet of you to gave the cups to a family member.
    I am glad that Rachael is coming up on the 24th and Kenny and Monique and their girls
    are coming on the 27th too. So lovely to have dear company for the holidays.

    The photo of the snow in your header is gorgeous!
    Lots of hugs!

  16. I always enjoy your christmas post and the pictures.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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