TODAY in Sweden nearly every home, school, hospital, factory, workplace, church, hotel and restaurant is celebrating LUCIA.
Lucia is the Bringer of Light and is celebrated on what, in the old almanac, was the darkest day of the year. The day is one of light, hope and love. The tradition has its roots in St. Lucia of Syracuse who died as a martyr in AD304.
Whilst the dark holds its firm grip on night, households across the country waken and quietly prepare. The long white gowns will have been carefully ironed the day before, the red sash belts laid out, candles and matches placed at the ready.
Lucia herself carries a crown of candles on her head. These are often now battery powered but not too long ago normal wax candles were used. The crown was placed on a damp handkerchief on the head. As the wax melted onto the damp fabric, a sizzling sound could be heard by those closest.
As well as Lucia there are her attendants, tärnor, who are dressed in white gowns with a silver glitter circle on their heads and carrying a lit candle.
In the later years a place was also made for boys, mainly as Star boys, stjärngossar, wearing a white gown, a pointed conic hat with a star and carrying a silver star stave. Recently younger boys are also dressed as gingerbread men.
The hushed bustle of the waiting crowd falls to stillness and into the darkness comes Lucia and her train, the glittering light from the candles heralding her visit, traditional songs sending a dusting of heaven across the darkness.
At this point both men and women are tear-eyed.
As the Lucia train approaches the songs ring light and clear. One is ‘Sankta Lucia’, which is the song that epitomises Lucia. Its evocative tones weave their way into my soul. I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this.
Here is the translation of the first verse:
‘The darkness lies weightily
on fields and cottages
in places forgotten by the sun
the shadows brood.
Into our dark homes She steps
with lighted candles on her head
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.’
The spirits continue to soar as Lucia and her attendants come to a halt, either at the front of a larger gathering or if at a home in front of the rest of the family.
Now other festive songs lilt their way across the break of morning, the star boys even having their own solo performance. The mystical magical aura shimmers in the candlelight, spreading across the nation.
Being Sweden no festive occasion would be complete without its own traditional fare.
Particular for this day are Lussekatter (Lucia Kitten Buns), which are made with saffron.
Also on offer are pepparkakor, cinnamon/ginger biscuits. Although many in Sweden now buy theirs, we still make ours and here are some we (my mother, son and I) made yesterday.
Finally on offer for this early morning feast is the special braided Luciabröd (Lucia Bread). To drink there is either coffee, milk or for the more daring a cup of julglögg.
Please, join me today, on this special Lucia day for a cup of coffee or glögg. Help yourself to Pepparkakor. Enjoy the song below whilst you nibble away.
Happy Lucia to you all!
Lucia Morning in Gothenburg Church 2015
61 thoughts on “HAPPY LUCIA”
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Fascinating. I ever knew this. How interesting, thanks for sharing. Happy 2016 while I think of it. 🙂
Jane, it was an especially interesting time of year on WordPress leading up to Christmas and learning all about the different traditions around the globe. Glad you enjoyed this one. I wish you a very Happy New Year filled with joy and lots of creative energy.
Oh how sweet, and thanks so much. Wishing this for you also. I hope we chat more this year and have more fun 🙂 xx
I remember Lucia as one of my favourite days in school leading up to Christmas. We always celebrated with with song and lussekatter:)
Inger, it is a magical day that seems to quiet the soul and brings peace during the stress and build up to Christmas. Although I don’t dress up any more, we still celebrate the day at home with family and it’s a very special day in December for me. Brilliant that you have such warn and positive memories of it from school days. They will never leave you.
Did you take the photographs? Absolutely stunning. We used to sing a song that had the refrain “Santa Lucia. Santa Lucia.” I loved it. it was in a little golden songbook we used all the way through grade school. Thanks so much for sending me the link to this wonderful post. Merry Christmas…Judy
I love the sound of your golden songbook from school, Judy. It’s strange how these precious memories come back to us. At one school we had royal blue one with such a soft almost velvet like cover. The photographs mainly come from the Internet although some of the food ones are mine. The ones from the church are amazing and capture the atmosphere of Lucia perfectly. Ethereal in their lighting. Thank you so much for you comment and I wish you a lovely Crhistams.
Sad I missed this, all looks so inviting interesting and tasty!! That bread looks exquisite.
But Marje, you didn’t miss it as it’s still here on the blog!! For you to enjoy! The bread looks too good to eat don’t you think? So light and tasty…oh, I”m not making this any easier am I?? Happy belated Lucia to you and your family. Wishing you all a lovely peaceful Christmas.
Thank you Annika, Happy belated Lucia to you too. 🙂
Dear Annika, I would love to join you for a cup of glögg and some Pepparkakor, but I fear I am days late! But…your post is so beautiful and thank you so much for sharing your wonderful Christmas traditions with us. You transported me to a place of peace and calm and joy, spreading light in the darkness which is what this season is all about.
I have a recipe book given to me many years ago which features recipes from around the world for Christmas and your Luccia Kitten Buns, or a version of them, are in there, along with a little story and sweet illustrations of Luccia dressed in her white robe and red sash, just like the beautiful young woman in your gorgeous photographs. Reading your post brought it all back to me.
And, just as an aside, I used to play the flute in the school orchestra when I was 12/13 and once at an evening performance, my then best friend and I played a duet to Santa Luccia in front of the entire audience. It was absolutely nerve-wracking. The other thing about that is that we didn’t know it, but Sir Bobby Robson was sitting in the front row (as you know, I lived in Suffolk and he was manager of Ipswich Football Club). I had no idea who he was then, since I wasn’t into football, and still am not, but my friend couldn’t believe it! So you can see that your delightful post has given me a great deal of joy…thank you so much for this 🙂
I’ll be siging off later today, but I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas and a New Year filled with blessings galore. See you in 2016 my lovely new friend 🙂 xx
Dear Sherri, Thank you so much for you lovely warm message. Of course you are welcome anytime for the juglögg and pepparkakkor. 😀 I loved reading about the memories this post brought back for you. No wonder your friend was excited about playing in front of Bobby Robson! Did she manage to concentrate?? Do you still play the flute? I bet Santa Lucia sounds beautiful on the flute. Your recipe book sounds fascinating – have you tried many of them?
I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas and look forward to seeing you again in the New Year. Have a peaceful restful break.
Hi Annika, I can only apologise that it has taken me this long to return to your blog, but I did want to pop in before signing off until after the New Year, with my boys arriving tomorrow and still much to do! I hope that your preparations are almost finished and that soon you and your lovely family will be enjoying a beautiful Christmas Day 🙂 Haha…yes, we were both so nervous that day with Bobby Robson. And actually, we bumped into him when we were a little older, he happened to walk into a cafe where we both sat and came over to chat with us (I wonder if he remembered us?), and shook both our hands…my friend shook for the rest of the day! I love it now when I tell my boys that story as they are both huge football fans…my one claim to fame, lol! Sadly though I don’t play the flute anymore, I sold mine, it was hallmarked silver, to raise money to buy a ticket to fly to America the first time so I could be with my boyfriend. Ahh…such is the way of youth 😉 I haven’t made anything from the recipe book for years now, I have made quite a few things, but I think I need to look it out again! Thank you for your lovely Christmas wishes, and I wish the very same for you and yours, a beautiful celebration and time of love, joy and laughter…and light 🙂 Happy Christmas Annika, I’ve so enjoyed our chats and look forward to many more in 2016 🙂 Take care and see you soon! xxx
This is a really interesting blog Annika! I can’t believe that there are so many traditions for just one holiday. Also, those pepparkakor look really tasty. I wish I could have some!
Thank you so much, Sammy. I know, Sweden has so many traditions! It’s great and always a good chance to meet up with family and friends. As well as sharing lovely food. I can send you some virtual Pepparkakkor – not quite as tasty as the real thing I’m afraid! 😀
Viveka, my lovely friend at My Guilty Pleasures, featured this too. But of course- she’s Swedish 🙂
So am I, Swedish that is! 🙂 Yes, quite a number of blogs featured Lucia yesterday.
I know! 🙂 Sorry- forgot to wish you happiness.
What a wonderful, warm tradition. The video had shivers going up my spine. So much beauty in such a beautiful setting. I’m a day late, but Happy Lucia.
Thank you for the good wishes and never too late! The video was amazing and I only saw it on Lucia morning half an hour before my post was scheduled out so there a mad panic to go in, edit it and link this one instead. Phew..made it though. The church is one of the oldest in Gothenburg – beautiful setting and great acoustics.
Happy Lucia, Annika! I so enjoyed this post and learning of these wonderful traditions. Very beautiful and your goodies look fantastic.
Karin, they taste very good indeed and we made over 300 pepperkankor so they should last into the New Year, although we always take a little box with us when visiting friends or when guests are over. I’ll send some to you virtually !😀It is great to learn about each others traditions I agree.
Wow, that’s a lot and I bet so fun to make. I’ll take ’em 😉
Loved the video. That is a favorite of mine–‘Santa Lucia’. I used to know the words (in English), but they escape me now. Thanks for the fond memories.
Glad you liked it Jacqui and it brought back good memories. I just realised I don’t think I’ve ever heard the song in English, only this one here on Lucia in Swedish and also the Italian one.
The only words I’m remembering are “…home of fair poesy, realm of pure harmony…” Does that make any sense?
They are lovely words but are not the ones we sing…same peaceful theme though.
Happy Lucia, Annika! Very much enjoyed your post. ❤
Thank you so much, Bette. This was something dear to me that I wanted to share. Warmest wishes to you.
I love these old traditions that are connected to the natural cycles of the seasons and the heavens. Lovely pictures and music. I can feel the quiet awe and emotion in your words. Thanks so much for sharing this. 🙂
I think I’m getting soft Diana :-)) – this year the traditions and festivities have taken on even more meaning for me and I am enjoying sharing them here, even learning quite a bit along the way!
Lovely post, Annika. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tradition, and the history behind it. I hope your day was full of light, hope and love.
Thank you so much, Jill. The magical start of the morning stayed all day, so very special indeed. I hope you had a lovely day too. It was interesting researching this post and there was so many more facts I could have put in about St. Lucia but I felt that would have detracted from the actual tradition itself. I have so enjoyed sharing my day.
I enjoyed some great lussekatts today! They are very tasy.
They are delicious and I miss them even more now – we haven’t baked any this year. Great you had some.
Happy Lucia, thank you so much for your post. I’ve learned so much about this holiday that I feel I should celebrate it also, especially as warm as it is today down here. Your pictures are beautiful and that includes the good things you have to eat. I have an awfully bad sweet tooth. I have my advent candles and one will be shared with this very lovely holiday… JC
Thanks for your lovely warm comment, Jeff. For a moment there I was worried! I thought you had a bad tooth, then realised what you meant. Phew…you’d be at home here as I think there are chocolates of some sort in every room at the moment – plus a secret stache for the really partying! 😀 So happy you are enjoying the advent candle lighting, we lit our third one this morning whilst watching the iPad iof the celebrations in Sweden. A special start to a special day.
A magical and interesting blog. I’d heard about Lucia but it was fantastic to read about it’s origins and all the additional things that go towards the whole day. And the icing on the cake was the video from the Lucia Morning. I watched all of this and was mesmerised. What a great start to the morning and it’s stayed with me all day.
Thank you so much, it is a truly magical day. I’m glad you liked learning about Lucia and fantastic that you enjoyed the video – I found it real treat this morning and even my son was enthralled and we discussed the various interesting instruments and singing techniques, as well as loving to watch the joy on the faces of the young children. Beautiful,
Thank you for sharing this tradition. It made this ordinary day in the U.S. a little more special.
Ah, I’m happy for that! 😀 I feel the same when I read about others celebrations across the world, such a your Thanksgiving and that is one reason it’s so special with the blogs. Meeting new people and sharing in traditions, lives and thoughts.
It is one of the best treasures from spending time this way.
A veritable treasure, Annika. Thanks for sharing, especially the Santa Lucia which I’ve loved forever. 🙂
Thank you so much Elaine. Lucia is obviously very special to me and the calm and the beauty has been maintained all day – even when putting up the tree lights! Usually a very stressful time for me (I can be a bit of a perfectionist!). Brilliant that you also love Lucia so much. I’m intrigued where you know so much about it? If I’m right you live in Canada?
Yes, I live in Ontario but am from a musical family and remember my mother singing Santa Lucia and hundreds of other songs. I always thought it was probably from a Spanish tradition so am interested to see your take on it. Joyeux Noel, Annika!
That sounds like a wonderful childhood surrounded by music. Do you sing or play an instrument yourself I wonder? The original Santa Lucia is Italian however I am pretty sure the text is totally different from the one sung here on Lucia but will check tomorrow. Joyeux Noel, Elaine! 😀
I have sung all my life but the last three years I am no longer in a choir and my solo days are limited to family singalongs. 🙂
What a beautiful post Annika. Makes my heart glows with joy.
“the glittering light from the candles heralding her visit, traditional songs sending a dusting of heaven across the darkness. ”
How wonderfully put. I love this celebration and as a Swede have part taken since a little girl.
The wonder has not faded, maybe rather deepened.
Thank you so much Mirja – Lucia is such a wonderful treasured tradition for me that I wanted to do justice to this occasion. I am only now beginning to understand what you mean about the wonder not fading but rather becoming deeper – beautifully said and thank you for putting into words my very own feelings. Your lovely warm comment is very welcome as always. 😀
That was such a lovely post. It is a beautiful tradition. I love it! We are enjoying our coffee now with a lussekatt and a couple of pepparkakor and tonight we are all going to our son’s house to enjoy a Lucia celebration. Our grandchildren and their cousins will perform for us. Happy Lucia to you all Annika. Kram
Oh Marion, that sounds like a perfect day start of such a special day. We sat at breakfast lit up with candles and watching the whole of the Lucia morning in Goteborg ion the iPad balanced at the end of the table, I wish you and and Kent and the rest of the family a very Happy Lucia. How special to have the Grandchildren performing for you – I bet you’ll need a couple of tissues! ❤️
Annika, this is so very beautiful!
I have always loved Santa Lucia!
My mother used to read Astrid Lindgren’s books to my sister and myself, and when in High School there was always a performance for Lucia. I was in an international school, which had a Swedish section and all students of it would do a performance ranging from the 3 year olds in Kindergarten to the 19 year olds in high school, I absolutely loved it.
Today, I had initially planned to write about this holiday (with my outside view) or have someone share their thoughts about it, but that did not happen as I had a last minute Advent Calendar participant. Sorry I am rambling now… If I am doing a calendar again next year, you’ll have to participate!
Oh, I’m so happy you got to experience the beauty of Lucia at your school! When I was at primary school my mother organised a Lucia celebration and it was amazing to see the wonder and delight in my teachers’ and friends’ eyes. Of course we had lots of Pepparkakor with us as well to share out. I would have liked to see your (outsiders view, as you say) post about Lucia, maybe next year. Oh I would love to be part of your advent celebration next year. Just remind! Thank you so much of your lovely comment.
You are welcome Annika, I absolutely loved your post, thus a lovely comment was in order. I am going to start an occasional series on my blog, where people can share traditions (that aren’t Christmas traditions), maybe you’ll share something then? I am going to make an announcement after Christmas.
I’d love to do that!! 😀. Just let me know when and what sort of piece you’re looking for. Many thanks and thanks again for your warm kind words, it’s made my lovely day shine even brighter!
Oh that’s so good to hear. Well I’ll try to figure out the details and I will let you know 🙂
…eine schöne Tradition.
Wünsche Dir und in Dein Heim viel Licht.
Alle Liebe Lis
Vielen Dank Lis. ❤️ Our home is full of light today, star shining brightly, candle lights in the window, candles lit on the tables. A warm festive day – putting the Chrsitams tree up later today so even more lights! Wishing you and your home a magical day filled with light of hope and joy.
Thanks for the good wishes that I accept gladly.
Cordial greetings to Sweden by Lis from Austria