13th December – Saint Lucia

13 12 2007

Today Swedes are celebrating Saint Lucia, one of the only (if not the only) saint that we in Scandinavia still celebrate despite being Protestant. For us, Saint Lucia is the day of light, and of expectation just before Christmas…

In Sweden, and to some extent in the other Nordic countries, processions of young girls and boys greet people in the morning on the 13th December with singing and candle light. In school there is usually a Lucia selected among the older girls and every class has 1-2 representatives in the procession, the rest of the school children gather in the gym hall and the lights are turned off… All of a sudden the hall is lit up with candles and singing from the procession – they stride slowly across the floor while singing lots of Lucia- & Christmas related songs. Sometimes there are a few boys dressed up as pepparkaksgubbar (Gingerbread men) and tomtenissar (Father Christmas’ helpers)

One of the Lucia songs, Natten går tunga fjät is my favourite and is actually of Italian origin – just like the Saint herself who was from Syracuse, Sicily. I learnt the Italian version when I studied Italian in high school and we would sing it for the other language classes (German, French & Spanish) every year.

My best Lucia memory is from Italy in December 2000. The Nordic students of the master’s programme decided to celebrate Saint Lucia with a procession in the courtyard of the monastery San Niccolò, where we studied (on the island Lido in Venice). Danish L was chosen as Lucia as the tallest of us, we crafted a Lucia crown from some wire, green leaves and candles. We dressed up in white sheets (like some kind of toga party!), created the white coned hats for the boys (no, it’s not Ku Klux Klan) and practised singing Natten går tunga fjät in Swedish and Italian. However, we felt that we needed another song to complement the Lucia song, so we chose Silent Night – to be sung in Swedish, Danish, Finnish, and English! (there were no Norwegian students..)

It was a beautiful Lucia procession and highly appreciated among the other students – unfortunately I never managed to get hold of any photos… I wonder what the 4 remaining monks from the monastery thought of our celebration!? And L got to experience the worst part of being Lucia – the candle wax in the hair afterwards!

Now I am watching the Lucia morning procession on Swedish tv (via internet) and I will eat a homemade Lussekatt like we did every 13th December when I was a child before going to school (only day of the year when we were allowed to watch tv during breakfast).

Here is the first verse of the original, Italian version of the Lucia song (it is a fisherman’s song):

Sul mare luccica (Santa Lucia)

Sul mare luccica
l’astro d’argento.
Placida è l’onda;
prospero è il vento.
Venite all’agile
Barchetta mia!
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia


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10 responses

13 12 2007
Petra

Jag ser fram emot svenska kyrkans Luciatåg i NYC nu på lördag. Då blir det glögg och pepparkakor. Mums!

13 12 2007
petchie

Härligt, jag tror att vi är typ 5 svenskar på hela ön så det skulle inte ha blivit mycket till luciatåg i Puerto Rico, ha ha!

13 12 2007
desvon

Härligt. Hoppas du får till lite luciastämning fast du befinner dig i tropikerna. Glad lucia på dig.

13 12 2007
petchie

Desiree, det är definitivt lättare att skapa lucia/julstämning på kvällen när det är mörkt så jag ska fixa lite glögg och lussekatter till O när han kommer hem ikväll.

13 12 2007
Mehdi

Beautiful stories. I regret not having the chance to experience Santa Lucia back then in Sweden. I’ve seen a few TV reports about it though, and the whole atmosphere seems magical. I remember this documentary about the Santa Lucia celebration at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, one year where it coincided with the Nobel prize ceremony (or am I mixing TV memories ?). All of the prize winners were there with their families and were woken up by young Lucias knocking at their doors and singing carols in the early morning. Most didn’t understand what was happening, and those with younger children would run to wake up their kids to show them what was going on at their hotel room doorstep. They would stand there with their sleepy kids, watching the young blond Lucias with candles in the hair, awestruck.
I hope I’ll have a chance to show that to my kids one day. You Nordic people definitely know how to celebrate Christmas. We french humbugs forgot all about it.

13 12 2007
petchie

Mehdi – you are right about your tv memory, I don’t know if they do it every year, but yes, the Nobel prize winners have been woken up to Lucia processions (the Nobel prize ceremony is always on the 10th December).
Maybe we need more celebrations in the north as it is so cold and dark in December.. What would you say is a typical French xmas celebration? Except for eating frogs’ legs?🙂

13 12 2007
Maria

På “mina” två skolor, (samma musiklärare, – så jag brukar hinna med Luciatåg på båda skolorna, dagen före eller efter samt den 13:e)är det väldigt stämningsfullt. Läraren är väldigt skicklig, Luciasången på italienska framför de alltid. Tåget består av hela mellanstadiet, så det blir ca 150 sångare!

13 12 2007
Annika

OJ vad vackert det var på Zorngården idag! Naturligtvis grät jag lite. Mitt sentimentala hjärta, du vet…
Natten går Tungafjät är den vackraste texten…SÅ fin. Min favorit.
Ditt firande med dina kompisar i Italien låter som en verklig upplevelse! Verkligen.
Ha en fortsatt fin Luciadag…Här är det regn och kallt, kallt…

14 12 2007
petchie

Mor, vad härligt att du får uppleva två Luciatåg – jag är så nöjd över att iaf fått se ett på TV i år!

Annika, visst var det fint och kul att de för en gångs skull sjöng Natten går tunga fjät, det känns som det ofta är ngn annan Luciasång..
Luciatåget i Italien var verkligen en rolig upplevelse och speciellt som det var en sådan fin miljö med klostrets innergård. Det grämer mig så att jag inte har några foton som minnen!
Här har det också regnat idag men blandat med solsken🙂 Hade nästan föredragit kyla och mörker idag…

14 12 2007
Mehdi

As usual in France, the typical french xmas celebration revolves around food indeed, but not frog legs ! The usual diet consists of an almost leathal list of dishes : “Gravad Lax”; Oysters by the dozen, Truffled foie gras, stuffed Turkey and “marrons”, cheese, “bûche glacée”, café, cognac… After that you call your cardiologist and hope your heart won’t implode the next day from the amount of ingested cholesterol. I usually fast for a whole week after xmas day to recover.

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