Lucia visits St. Paul’s Cathedral

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Very little stops time in its tracks. Takes one back to our roots of dark and light.

As the vast and magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral was cast into complete darkness, a hush descended over the crowd. The usual shuffles, sniffles, and coughs were awed into silence by the depth of dark and then the distant tones of Sankta Lucia could be heard. From behind us, she appeared and with her maids, they slowly made their way down the three aisles. All around us the glow of candles lit up their faces, the singing clearer, louder as they passed up to the front of the cathedral.

As photography was strictly forbidden (ignored by a few) this video from 2011 shows the entrance of Lucia at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

An overwhelming sense of purity and joy filled the building, the singing, still only lit with candles, wondrous and at times spine-tinglingly glorious. Too beautiful, tender, moving for words.

For once everyone was fully focussed, caught in the moment, no distractions. The wholeness was complete and utter.

As the bitter chill of outside penetrated the cathedral (it was minus three centigrade outside) people huddled closer to their loved ones.

This was the final song of the evening before Lucia and her maids walked back down the aisle…listen with some volume and wait until the moment the choir joins in. A shudder of emotion shook us all…many moved to tears. The pettiness of the world ceased to exist as the song carried us to new levels.

Lucia is celebrated on the 13th December in Sweden and I wrote about the festival here two years ago. For the first time this year, my family and I went to see the celebration at St. Paul’s Cathedral – a most unique and special occasion.

The Church of Sweden organises a series of Sankta Lucia services across London during December and the Ulrika Eleanora Church Choir takes part in them all. We were lucky enough to have internationally-renowned Swedish Soprano, Miah Ovenden, singing this year. Also, we enjoyed a Christmas Service with guest speakers including The Ambassador of Sweden who was joined in the congregation by numerous other Ambassadors, including those of Finland, which celebrated its 100 years of independence last week. I’d read about this on Khaya’s lovely blog and you can read ten things she loves about her second home here

I know we will be back next year to Lucia at St. Paul’s Cathedral…hopefully some of you might be able to join us.

79 thoughts on “Lucia visits St. Paul’s Cathedral

  1. Tiny says:

    How beautiful, Annika! Brought me back to my roots as well. You described so well the pure spirit Lucia celebration brings about. I came to think about a memorable Lucia celebration at the Swedish School in Addis Ababa where our son was a “star bearer” (stjarngosse) at age 6.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Tiny, how wonderful that you know exactly what I’m writing about! It’s hard explaining to others about a stjarngosse and how lovely that your son was one at school. In Addis Ababa!!! The mind boggles and I would love to sit and chat, to learn more about your extraordinary life! I remember taking part at nursery and my mother’s work and then always at home and. Couple of times in school in the UK! So glad this brought a bit of home to you.

  2. dgkaye says:

    Wow! Such a beautiful share Annika. What an experience that had to be. Thank you for sharing with us. You are so right, in those moments all the ugliness in the world disappears. ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Debby, it has been such a joy to share this evening here. I had expected the evening to be special, moving, but it became such a pure joyful occasion, of shared heightened emotions carrying us to another level! I think everyone wanted to hold onto that feeling for as long as possible. Xx❤️

  3. Clanmother says:

    I learn something new every time I stop by your place. I had never heart of Saint Lucia so I googled and found her story. I especially was taken with the candle-lit wreath that rested on her head, so that she could use her hands to carry food. What a profound and joyous celebration!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Rebecca, I never knew that!! Thank you for goggling and sharing…it is wondrous to see the live candle-lit wreath (most places use the battery powered ones). My mother remembers that when she was Lucia a small dampened tea towel would be first placed on the head and she’d hear the sizzle of wax falling on it! An extremely profound occasion ..it feels slightly unreal now!

  4. Sharon Bonin-Pratt says:

    How beautiful, Annika. I’ve never seen the service before and this was very moving.
    Our younger son is hosting a lovely young Swedish au pair from Sweden this year. We had the pleasure of meeting her at Thanksgiving when he brought his family to Southern California. She told us about the Santa Lucia tradition celebrated with her family and I wonder if she’s going to really miss it this year in the US.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Shari, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Swedish au pair doesn’t celebrate it at your son’s house…the children, everyone would love it! Pure magic and wonderful atmosphere. It is so much part of the Swedish tradition celebrated by all,everywhere! Oh, this was a most special and amazing Lucia…I never quite imagined anything like this. A memory to last a lifetime! ❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Brigid, it is a joy to share this amazing evening here…one of those posts that wrote itself when I was meant to be working on something else! Haha! I always used to think O Holy Night was a Swedish hymn sine I heard it there as young and then when we came to the UK I was impressed they’d translated it into English! Must have been in my late teens when I realised it was the other way round! A very Happy Christmas to you! 😀❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, you read my mind!!😀😀 We came prepared, gloves, thick winter coats and even a little cushion to sit on (the seats get cold!). Lucia and her maids only have on the gowns…I just hoped they had thermals underneath!! This brought back the peace of Christmas, full of serenity and shared joy. Amazing.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Carol, you do right! Somethings are best listened to with headphones – you get the full sensory experience. It was beyond moving and there weren’t many dry eyes in the cathedral… you could sense the communal awe! Astonishing. So glad you can hear even a bit of what it was like, feel the emotions stirring.❤️

  5. Miss Gentileschi says:

    So very, very beautiful! I already bot goosebumps just watching the video and can imagine how wonderful it must have been for real! I love St Paul´s Cathedral very much but never attended a service – this is one I would love to attend one day! All the light and the dark wonderfully mixed together to create such a wonderful atmosphere – very special!! xxxx ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Sarah,you would love this celebration at St.Paul’s! The atmosphere was unreal,overflowing with joy, delight…the light of the candles just penetrating the darkness,the voices of the choir carrying ethereally over us all! Magical. This was also my first visit to the cathedral so I was double wowed! Oh, so special! Hugs xxxx

  6. Julie Holmes, author says:

    That must be an amazing sight to see, with all the candles, and the singing. I’ve heard of St Lucia, and it’s wonderful to see the occasion in “real life”. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, Annika! Have a great week 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Julie, it was an amazing and emotional experience; one that will always stay with me. I had no idea how much stillness just candle light can bring to us humans…I wonder if we don’t react against the harsher brighter electric lights. A mesmerising evening and wonderful to see and share. Wishing you a fantastic week too. Hugs xx

  7. Bette A. Stevens says:

    Glory to God in the highest! Thanks so much for sharing your experience at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Annika. Your beautiful post, not only put me in touch with my Swedish heritage, it evoked complete awe and reverence for our Creator, Lord and Savior. ❤ Blessings and love…

    • Annika Perry says:

      Bette, Lucia is celebrated by all in Sweden – from the home, at schools, work places, churches, hospitals. It is very much part of our cultural heritage and I’m so happy to bring part of this to you and your Swedish heritage. It was a heavenly evening of celebration of light and life, an occasion of reverence and love. We all left quietly stunned, trying to hold onto the uplifted feeling of awe and bliss. Love & hugs xx

  8. Mae Clair says:

    I’m not ashamed to admit I would have been in tears. I have tears just listening to this. And you’re right about that moment when the choir joins in. Utterly beautiful. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring experience.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mae, thank you so much for your touching comment. Don’t be ashamed…I think at leat half, including myself, were in tears. The two choirs singing together was awesome and not like anything I’ve quite heard before – at that stage I gave over to pure emotional bliss as the tsunami of music swept over me. It is a privilege and joy to share here and I’m so happy to have found the final piece.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Iris, angelic voices sums up this heavenly singing that swept over us…and you’re right, I sat there thinking this is the true message of Christmas and all the worry about presents etc became trivial in comparison. It is an honour and joy to be able to share my evening. ❤️

  9. the incurable dreamer says:

    OH WOW!!! Thank you for sharing, Annika. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be there. So much magic and beauty, watching the video gave me goosebumps. It has been one of my dreams to see a choir sing in a cathedral at Christmas time, you have reminded me why…amazing!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Tanya, it was most definitely a wow evening!! Beyond words awe-inspiring and heavenly. Like you were when watching the videos, so was I whilst there..full of goosebumps and not from the cold!! I couldn’t believe the emotions the music could evoke, unearthly beauty and brought the real meaning of Christmas home to me! You have to visit a choir at a cathedral… from your reaction here I know you’d love it.

  10. delphini510 says:

    Your post rings of beauty Annika. Visually this magnificent Cathedral quietens and its atmosphere is one of devotion.
    To then experience the Lucia and her maids lighting the darkened place only with candles and fill it with this beautiful song – without the aid of any instrument. You are one lucky woman. The whole celebration must have left your family with and almost spiritual experience.
    I will definitely go next year , God willing as my father always said.
    Bless and thanks
    Miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Miriam, thank you so much for your wonderful message and yes, god willing you can go next year! It was an evening of pure beauty, shared joy. The moment of darkness was so sudden and complete, then a pause before the voices and slight beacon of light from the back. Wondrous…often one forgets what an amazing instrument the voice is and when the choir sings it was so uplifting. Yes, I would definitely say it was a spiritual experience for us all..one I hope stays with us for a long time. Hugs, my friend. ❤️

  11. D. Wallace Peach says:

    Beautiful, Annika. I had to listen to both clips. So emotional. I love the acoustics and when you add those lovely voices, the music, candlelight, and the sacredness of the space and true meaning of Christmas, it’s all more than words can describe. I’m so glad you got to go and see it. Thanks for sharing the magic. ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Diana, it was all the elements that made this a truly magical, memorable and mesmerising evening. The service before was beautiful and touching but once the lights were off, just candle light in the whole cathedral and with Lucia and the choir singing the effect was amazing. Surreal, ethereal…as if entering another world beyond our own very limited and restrictive one. Only too happy to share the magic and joy. ❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Wow! Thank you so much for the compliment, Bernadette. I just tried to sum up the whole evening in a sentence. It was such a unique, surreal experience. After a manically busy week this was heavenly.

    • Annika Perry says:

      These were indeed thoughts going through my mind…what would they have made of such a building, such music…the bitter winter outside. An unforgettable experience. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Pablo.

  12. Jill Weatherholt says:

    Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing experience with us Annika. I’ll admit, I get quite emotional listening to songs of the season. The second video was quite moving as it reminded me of attending church with my grandmother. xo

  13. Mike says:

    Sounds fantastic Annika. There is something about hearing a choir in a Cathedral, but after looking and listening to the videos Lucia seems to belong to another time and place, and so special! Fancy being in St Pauls listening to a choir lit only by cantdlelight. I’m sorely tempted to get a ticket for next year.
    Mike

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mike, I’ve been to many choir concerts in cathedral and churches which have all been wonderful but yes, this was something quite unique. The setting was fantastic and once the lights had gone down the atmosphere was amazing, which only increased as Lucia arrived. A truly wondrous occasion and hope you get to go next year. Xx

  14. balroop2013 says:

    I must confess I have no idea about Lucia but I enjoyed watching the videos Annika. How wonderful that you have watched these divine moments of bliss! Thanks for sharing with us. Love and hugs.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Balroop, I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of Lucia, it is a very Swedish celebration and one celebrated in nearly every home, school, workplace, hospitals etc. It’s in our very soul, I feel! So happy we got to see this at St. Paul’s and I could share here. Divine bliss…describes it perfectly. Thank you for those words and your lovely comment. Love and hugs. Xx

  15. Carrie Rubin says:

    This must have been so beautiful to see and hear. When I was in London last summer, we made it just in time to hear a choir sing in St. Paul’s Cathedral. What a wonderful experience.

    • Annika Perry says:

      The building is itself awe-inspiring and doubly so when the its choir sings…for the last song I featured St. Paul’s choir joined the Swedish one…amazing. Maybe you’ll get a chance to visit in December next year when this is on…you do need to get tickets though. Wishing you a special Sunday evening. 😀❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      I was daunted to begin with as it was such a special occasion and I wasn’t sure I could do it justice…then wrote about it to a friend and she loved hearing about the evening! Just had to share here…truly an amazing, awe-inspiring hour.

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