Visiting Sweden at Christmas time can be a rich and beautiful experience. Most visitors to Sweden begin in Stockholm, and may spend their whole holiday there. If you plan to visit Sweden in time for St Lucia’s Day, you will have to go a week or so before Christmas – St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13.
What Is St. Lucia’s Day?
St. Lucia was a young woman who was martyred for her Christian faith in the 4th century AD (the early 300s). It is believed that Roman authorities discovered her faith and acts of charity, and put her to death.
Interestingly, St. Lucia herself was an Italian native, but the Scandinavian countries have embraced the holiday with more fervor than other areas of the world. This may be due to the inspiring stories about St. Lucia that missionaries told in the Middle Ages. There are other religious, fantastical, and supernatural legends surrounding St. Lucia, but today she is remembered on St. Lucia Day with a celebration of light.
Traditionally, St. Lucia Day was celebrated on the darkest day of the year, or the longest night. According to the Gregorian calendar that we use today, that would be December 21. Nonetheless, the celebration is still held on December 13 as if it is the longest night of the year. St. Lucia Day marks the time of year when the days begin to get longer, and light and warmth begin to return.
In many Swedish homes, the oldest daughter rises early on St. Lucia Day and serves her family saffron buns and coffee. She wears a long, white gown and a green wreath on her head. The wreath holds candles, although modern celebrations usually use electric candles.
Light is the theme of St. Lucia’s Day. If you visit Sweden, you will be treated to beautiful processions of song and candlelight. Schools, churches, local towns and the nation itself recognize St. Lucia’s Day and crown a lucky girl to be St. Lucia in the celebratory processions. Many others participate in the processions, carrying candles, stars, and lanterns.
The celebration of this special day is a rich, cultural experience that is full of beauty and light. It’s a lovely way to spend one of the darkest days of the year. In Sweden, you can begin your Christmas festivities with St. Lucia’s Day and enjoy the holiday over the course of the week. This is a much richer experience than just opening presents on one day that is so quickly gone.