CELEBRATION OF LIGHT

My Three Lucia Figurines

TODAY (13th December) nearly every home, school, hospital, factory, workplace, church, hotel and restaurant in Sweden 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 conical 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 men, women and children 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 everyone’s soul.  ‘Sankta Lucia’ is the first song on the video below which shows Lucia celebrations from around Sweden. 

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) have made in earlier years.

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. 

A few of you might recognise this revised post from 2015 although I hope you will enjoy it just as much now as then! For various reasons recently I have been unable to blog as much as usual, hence today’s post.

However, I could not fail to mark this very special day and the above sums up the history, songs, occasion, culinary delights of this festive day perfectly.

May Light be with you all this Holiday Season and I wish you peace, joy and enjoyment in the coming days and weeks.

I leave you with an unusual and beautiful Lucia video which I came across … when you have a few moments to spare I am sure you will be equally captivated by it. Happy Lucia!


133 thoughts on “CELEBRATION OF LIGHT

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jennie, thank you so much and it a unique and wondrous day! A delight to share here! Hope you’ve had a magical Christmas and warmest wishes to you for the New Year! It’s always a joy to read your posts, you and your class are inspiring! 😀😀

      • Jennie says:

        Thank you so much, Annika. Christmas was lovely, I do love how all those little white lights seem to fill me up with goodness and cheer. Happy New Year to you!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Sally, thank you so much for reblogging my post about Lucia. To me it’s always been part of my life and quite normal athough when my mother told me about real life candles on her head I was impressed (and very glad we have battery powered ones!) 😀 You’re right that this must have been a very welcome occasion every 13th December … and it’s magic hasn’t waned in our modern world! The tradition is still incredibly moving with its candle light, songs and of course special snacks!

      Wishing lots of light and joy to you and David this Christmas and a very Happy and creative New Year! ❤️

  1. smilecalm says:

    what a beautiful
    holiday celebration, Annika!
    i’d move there for it
    as I like snow, also.
    but probably easier
    to enjoy celebrating
    here in California!
    that’s for the gift
    of music & friendship, david 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      David, thank you so much for your wonderful comment! 😀😀

      I’m very touched by your use of the word gift … it is an absolute joy for me to share all about Lucia here and in so many ways I wanted to give something special to the wonderful friends here! Haha…moving to Sweden just for Lucia might be a bit extreme…definitely easier to enjoy from the comfort of your home in California. Don’t you get some snow there up on the mountains?

      Wishing you and yours a magical New Year filled with light, peace and harmony. X

    • Annika Perry says:

      Teagan, it’s a joy to read your enjoyment of my post and learning all about Lucia! As young I took it for granted, always having been part of my life … it is a truly magical tradition and a delight to share here. Hoping you’ve had a fantastic Christmas and wishing you a creative and wondrous New Year! Hugs xx

  2. Forestwood says:

    It is a lovely tradition and the tun has haunting qualities that sit in one’s heart, in a good way, for some time. And how could anyone refuse one of those buns. They are delicious! Merry Christmas to you from Australia.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Happy Lucia and God Jul to you Amanda! Yes, Lucia has such a terrific blend of various elements and the songs are haunting and beautiful. The food is so delicious and alas our pepparkakor tin is already low! Lovely to read your comment and from your blog I see your love for all things Scandinavian! Have a brilliant Christmas in Australia – although you like the chillier climes, the current damp windy days are nothing to long for! 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Marje! 😀 There are so many wonderful elements to Lucia and I wanted to give a flavour of them all! The special bread, buns and pepparkakor are delicious and especially in the magic of the candlelight and song.

      Wishing you and your family a very special Christmas filled with light and joy. Xx

  3. Mae Clair says:

    The celebration of light and St. Lucia is one of magic, beauty and grace. I only learned about this timeless tradition several years ago and find it hauntingly beautiful.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mae, you write with such love and beauty of the tradition and lovely that you knew about it already. Timeless is the perfect word … that’s just how it feels to me! The magical uplifting morning of light, music and food stays with me a long time. Have you ever had a chance to see it in real life?

      Wishing you a magical Christmas and a New Year filled with joy, peace & light! Hugs xx

  4. Roy McCarthy says:

    What a great post Annika. As you say, the song/hymn is evocative. Instantly recognisable though I don’t know from where. Certainly I’ve never come across this celebration in the UK or Jersey (though there is a fine video of the procession in St Paul’s Cathedral on You Tube).

    The last piece of film is magical. Candles and lanterns are out of vogue these days which makes it more so (though I do keep hoping they have a glass of water handy in case of accidents 🙂 )

    I read that Lucia walked with candles on her head so that she had her hands free to carry more food to the poor.

    Thanks for this informative and gorgeous post Annika.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Roy, thank you so much for your great comment! It’s almost like having a chat. So many have said the same about the Santa Lucia song -familiar but unclear where from. Last year we were at the Lucia in St. Paul’s and it was heartstoppingly beautiful and moving. A wondrous occasion and treat to me to see it and not be part!

      Candles are out of vogue?! Not in our house … I have a special cupboard for them all and we have some lit every evening! For Lucia and Christmas they are everywhere. Your comment reminds me of my mother trying to buy candles when we first arrived in the U.K. in the late 70s. The shopkeeper asked if she was expecting a long powercut! Having said that I too hoped water was close by as her dress in the last video swept by the candles rather too close for comfort.

      I think you are probably right about Lucia wearing candles on her head so she could carry the food for the poor … at home Lucia always carries a tray with coffee, bread and pepparkakor as we went to wake the rest of the family with songs, candles and food!

      Wishing you a wonderful Christmas break and all the best for the New Year! 😀

  5. Vashti Q says:

    Beautiful post, Annika. Thank you for introducing this saint and holiday to me. The videos are beautiful I enjoyed them very much and the breads and cookies look delicious. Thanks again for sharing. ❤ xo

    • Annika Perry says:

      Vashti, thank you so much and it’s a joy to share this beautiful tradition … I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and videos. The last one is unusual but I was captivated and couldn’t resist sharing it here. The pepparkakor are being strictly rationed as otherwise they would disappear within a few days … they are so tasty. The breads were as well and are all gone!

      Have a brilliant holiday, Vashti and wishing you a magical and creative New Year! 😀❤️Xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Curt, it is a very special tradition and one which touches us all to the core! For me it was totally normal but when I shared it with friends and at school they were awed and in wonder! The light and songs on a dark December day are heavenly … and we have candles galore every evening during the winter months … anything to make the house snug and cosy!

      Curt, I wish you, Peggy and your family a magical holiday and an amazing New Year filled with joy, light and travels! 😀

      • Curt Mekemson says:

        Peggy loves candles, Annika. So it is her kind of celebration. A lightbulb can never match a candle when its comes to warmth and mood-setting.
        And also to you and your family, Annika. A very special time, filled with candles and warmth and good cheer. –Curt and Peggy

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Jennifer and it is amazing to take part … I couldn’t imagine December without this tradition and it is a beautiful moving occasion. I’m delighted to share it here! 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Andrea, you’re right and it is wonderful and moving to be involved with Lucia … for me growing up we celebrated every year at home, a tradition I carry on. Only when we went to St. Paul’s cathedral last year to see it, did I experience Lucia as the ‘audience’. Wow! I was floored and cried … a deeply spiritual evening on so many levels. Oh yes, and the treats were there as well!😀

  6. Jina Bazzar says:

    Oh Annika, what a lovely story. like a magical fairy tale. I’ve only been to Sweden once – Stockholm – and the impression i got was very positive – i always say i’d like to go back and spend more time there.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jina, it is otherworldly and has wonderful magical fairytale qualities … it touches everyone who sees Lucia! I’m so happy you enjoyed your time in Stockholm. It is an amazing capital city and where I went on my honeymoon. Coming from the west coast I’d say if you every have the chance of returning to Sweden you should visit there!

      • Jina Bazzar says:

        The people were very friendly, and the consideration to people with disabilities surprized me. My only regret was the short time – five days – i was able to spend.And there was all the strange desserts…. i can’t say i enjoyed salted chocolate, but it’s nice to discover what other cultures do.

  7. roughwighting says:

    I’m one day late, but I still wish you LIGHT, and LOVE and JOY, Annika. I enjoyed this post so much – I learned a lot. May we all have a light glowing above our heads, a halo of love.

  8. restlessjo says:

    My Swedish friend, Viveka, posts something on this every year, this year featuring the parade of cakes at the Royal Palace. Your biscuits look very enticing. 🙂 🙂 God bless you and keep you this Christmastide.

  9. Jacqui Murray says:

    I must have some Swedish in my genetics–Santa Lucia is such a familiar song from my childhood. I can’t come up with many of the words but the tune–I can hum the entire thing. Thank you for the context. This was a delightful mystical post, Annika. It carried me away.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jacqui, Lucia is a wonderfully mystical tradition – I’m glad the magic aura of the occasion came across in the post and carried you away! That’s just how I feel the whole day! 😀 Who knows, maybe your far flung ancestors came from Sweden … or it is one of those tunes that has struck a particular chord with you. Wishing you light and joy this Christmas and a wonderful creative New Year! xx

  10. Staci Troilo says:

    I’m so glad you posted this. What a lovely celebration. The music is beautiful, as is the service. (I’m not the whole way through yet, but I’m really enjoying it.) The food looks delicious. And that bread is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing. Wishing you a peaceful and blessed holiday.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Staci, it is a magical celebration and I’ve so enjoyed sharing the joy of Lucia here. The video gives a real sense of the occasion, and although I initially only wanted to post the song, the full length presentation has some beautiful songs. Oh yes, the food is delicious and the pepparkakor are disappearing fast in this house! 😀

      Wishing you a wonderful holiday and best wishes for a creative & very Happy New Year! xx

  11. Sharon Bonin-Pratt says:

    This is such a beautiful service, Annika. You’ve brought it to life with all the photos and descriptions describing a very Swedish tradition. I remember reading a story when I was a kid about Santa Lucia, in which one daughter in a family of girls was never selected to represent Santa Lucia until one year when she was finally chosen. It must feel very special to wear that wreath of candles and to sing the gorgeous songs.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Shari, I just the love sound of that story and feel for the daughter … how she must have glowed with pride and joy when she could be Lucia at last! I remember the first time I was Lucia at my primary school for a showing of the tradition that my mother organised. It felt very special indeed as well as a huge responsibility! I so wished to bring the light, joy and magic of Lucia across in this post and so happy you felt them all come to life.

      Wishing you light & love this Christmas and into the New Year, my friend. hugs xx ❤️

  12. D. Wallace Peach says:

    I still remember your beautiful post from last year, Annika. I love the music and the festivities and the wonderful meaning of the day – especially how the entire community of Sweden celebrates together. And who can possibly resist homemade cinnamon ginger biscuits? Thanks so much for the heartfelt post. ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Diana, it doesn’t seem long since we saw Lucia at St. Paul’s Cathedral last year (which I later posted about). The whole country is involved and the sense of community is incredible … a very special day that signals hope and light for us all. Oh, the pepparkakor are delicious and quickly disappearing in this house … can I convince my mother we need to make another batch before Christmas Eve?! 😀

  13. Julie Holmes, author says:

    This is wonderful, Annika! And I love the idea of light on the darkest night of the year (Yay! Winter Soltice! That means more daylight from that point on until June 😀 ) What a beautiful tradition. And so nice that they found a place for the boys as well.

    Enjoy these next days until Christmas! Hope you found the perfect tree 😀

    • Annika Perry says:

      Julie, just back from tree shopping and after much discussions, viewings found just the one! 😀 Can’t wait to decorate it later today.

      As long as I’ve known Lucia, boys were always included and I couldn’t imagine it being any different. It is a wonderful, moving tradition and one I love to share here.

      Glad I’m not the only one counting down to when the day light starts to stretch out longer … dark before four pm is plain silly!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Happy Lucia, Bette! ❤️ I’m smiling at your lovely comment and so happy to bring connection with your Swedish family! This is such a special occasion and one that touches us to the core. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a New Year filled with joy and peace. GOD JUL & GOTT NYTT AR! Love & Hugs xx

  14. dgkaye says:

    What a beautiful celebration Annika. Thanks for sharing it with us. I can’t even imagine wearing the live candles on one’s head. 🙂 I didn’t watch the full videos, but what I saw of both are beautiful. ❤

    • Annika Perry says:

      Debby, luckily I never had to wear the live candles on my head … it’s difficult enough walking along, singing and carrying a live candle, dripping wax onto the hand! My mother remembers the live candle of Lucia crown and she was told me about how they wore it with the damp cloth and the sizzle of hot wax! It’s a delight to share this very special day and I’m glad you got a chance to watch a little of the videos as they give a real sense of the occasion. Wishing you a wonderful and relaxing break, Debby and a very Happy & Creative New Year! Xx

  15. Carol Balawyder says:

    Such a beautiful post. The choir was truly soothing and the video The Night of Light inspired me to light candles in my apartment as I listened to it – both powerful and calming at once. Happy Saint Lucia Day to you, Annika. ❤ .

    • Annika Perry says:

      Carol, I’m touched how the video here inspired you to light candles in your apartment and how true that the light is not only bright but brings its own sense of power! An intangible strength in the glow. Thank you so much for your warm comment and wishing you light and peace this holiday season and New Year! Xx❤️

  16. maryannniemczura says:

    Beautiful post and St. Lucia’s Day music and images. I too knew the song long ago but not the story behind it. Out of darkness into the light, we celebrate this festive season. Christmas peace, joy and blessings to you and your family. Loved the post very much.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mary Ann, it is this literal darkness turning to light which is spine-tingling… with the heavenly songs it is a mesmerising and deeply moving occasion. The glow of the day stays with me as the preparations for Christmas continue. Wishing you and your family light and peace this Christmas… may there be much joy and laughter. Xx

      • maryannniemczura says:

        Thank you, Annika, for your lovely description of the season. Our snow has melted and is only gone for a brief period of time. Hope your Christmas is white and filled with peaceful light and music. oxox Laughter goes without saying. A daily dose too.

        • Annika Perry says:

          Yes to the light and music… as well as the laughter! No snow yet but bitterly cold. We are travelling quite a way over the holidays so we don’t want the snow then as the country comes to a standstill!

          • maryannniemczura says:

            Going to Sweden? You must have to take ferries too, right? I know what you mean about coming to a standstill in inclement weather and snow. Our southern states had almost two feet of snow in places and no snowplows. Mother Nature has to provide warm sunny weather to melt the snow then. Safe travels.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Sue, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I’m glad you enjoyed learning about Lucia and liked the presentation… I hoped it didn’t become too busy/messy with all the images but didn’t want to leave any of these out!

      Likewise wishing you love and light this holiday and into the New Year. May it be filled with peace and joy. Love & hugs, ❤️Xx

  17. balroop2013 says:

    Some traditions are fascinating as well as warm. I have read this post with great interest as I didn’t know about Lucia and celebrations connected with her. Thank you for sharing the story Annika. Light has always inspired mankind in all forms and has become a symbol of all we aspire for. May light and love be around you this festive season dear friend. Keep spreading it with your words. 🙂 Too early to wish Happy New Year, as we shall keep meeting. 🙂

    • Annika Perry says:

      Balroop, I likewise enjoy learning about traditions from around the world and it was a joy to share the light of Lucia here. The occasion brings light to us on so many levels, literally, metaphorically, spiritually & emotionally … it is always so moving and beautiful. Thank you so much for your warm and thoughtful comment and your words about spreading light with my writing … just what I needed to hear at the moment. 😀 Wishing you joy and peace this holiday season surrounded by light and love! ❤️

  18. macsbooks311 says:

    This is such a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing this lovely celebration with us. I have a really old recipe for pepparkakor that was given to my grandparents by a friend. They are my favorite holiday treat!

    • Annika Perry says:

      Thank you so much, Mackey (?) … it’s a delight to share Lucia with everyone here. Wow, how lovely to own such an old original recipe and I am impressed you bake these. They are delicious and we make a special baking afternoon to make these every year (my mother uses her mother’s recipe!). There is just one problem with pepparkakor though … they are almost too tasty and moreish … tending to disappear sooo quickly. Enjoy the holidays!

  19. Gwen Plano says:

    Extraordinarily beautiful post. Thank you so much. I read it in the hospital where I await surgery. Warms my heart and calms my jitters. ❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Dear Gwen, I hope your surgery went well … I was tear- eyed reading how my post helped calm your jitters. Thinking of you and take care. Warmest wishes to you for a wonderful holiday break and light and joy in the New Year! 🤗💐

    • Annika Perry says:

      Neil, how true … this is very much about bringing light into the world … literally and metaphorically! Oh,the buns and pepparkakor are a treat – The Swedes are known for their delicious cakes & pastries!

  20. watchingthedaisies says:

    Thank you Annika. This is such a beautiful post. I also enjoyed the glogg and pepparkakor. Imagine walking through the snow through such a lovely path. O Come Emmanuel is one of the songs we are singing at the moment in our choir. Wishing you and your family a blessed festive season. xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Brigid, yeah, lovely to have you over for the Lucia snack! The pepparkakor are proving popular! 😀 The peace and serenity of her candle-lit snow Walk is pure magic … I’ve watched it many times in absolute awe. One winter in Sweden I walked in the pitch black through the heavy snow of a small lane late at night. It was minus 25 and was a surreal experience … could have done with candle to light the way!

      How wonderful to sing O Come Emmanuel in the choir … an amazing Christmas song that seems to float from the heavens!

      Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas with light and joy for the New Year! ❤️

  21. Mary Smith says:

    This is such a lovely post, Annika, and made me quite teary reading it. I remember singing Santa Lucia in school but we were never told the story behind it or about the beautiful ceremony. I really enjoyed both the videos. And just as I finish typing this comment, the sun has come out.

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mary, I’m touched reading your wonderful comment, encapsulating so much within a few sentences. How lovely that you sung this at school and at last you learn about the song! I’m so glad you enjoyed the videos … the last one was so unusual and although long, I found it captivating. Yeah, eerie that the sun came out just as the songs finished. Wishing you much light and joy this Christmas and new year! Xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Jill, it is a wondrous occasion and I felt the warm glow of Lucia all day. So happy you enjoyed learning a bit about it and loved the videos … they give a real sense of Lucia! Jill, may there be light, peace & joy for you this holiday and in the new year ahead. Hugs xx ❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Helena, I’m so glad you had the opportunity to listen to one of your favourite hymns … it is not so common in the U.K. It’s a delight to share Lucia here and try to capture its special and magical essence, the videos definitely help to show the peace, beauty and serenity! Wishing you a joyful relaxing holiday and a Happy & Creative New Year! X

    • Annika Perry says:

      Mick, we always crave light, literally and metaphorically, and festivities such as Lucia and Diwali gives us these elements. I do love this time of year, with so many lights up and about in towns, villages, homes … afterwards January and February always seems so dark and long.

  22. delphini510 says:

    Annika, a huge hug and thank you for this beautiful post on Lucia morning. Together with Lucia you are spreading so much light, joy and beauty.
    I love your two videos, the first one a traditional and uplifting from Gothenburg, the second a sheer magic with the young woman following the trail of lights through the snow and find her crown. Has me tear eyed.
    With swift and easy strokes you give us the history of this so important celebration.

    Even the pepparkakor and Lussekatter you got perfect.
    Bless

    miriam

    • Annika Perry says:

      Miriam, looking through my post today I see I haven’t answered you! I honestly thought I had and am so sorry for being so remiss.

      Your comment is a delight and I am so happy you enjoyed the post and videos so much – although not sure I want to leave you tear-eyed! It is a wondrous tradition and one I love to share here.

      Wishing you a magical New Year filled with love, light and joy … and lots of creativity. You know we all wait with excitement to read you latest poetic wonder! 😀❤️

    • Annika Perry says:

      Pam, thank you so much! 🤗 It’s a joy to share all about Lucia and I still feel the warm glow from the gentle light start this morning. Wishing you a peaceful and joyful Christmas and a very Happy New Year! X

    • Annika Perry says:

      Robbie, it is a special and unique tradition. The whole country stops for this in the morning … it is everywhere! Often there will be Lucia at home, before school etc … by eleven one is enveloped in such a warm light of joy and love!

  23. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    Oh, Annika! How beautiful you describe this special Celebration of Light. In recent years, I’ve managed to get to church for this service (one of the few occasions I go to church) but luckily the ceremony is also held at work (schools). It is a very special and needed celebration with long, cold and dark winter upon us.

    Thank you for this write-up. And now I’ll join you on that moment of glögi and piparkakku. 😀
    May Light be with you and your family during this Holiday Season, and always.xx

    • Annika Perry says:

      Khaya, how wonderful that you are celebrating this today and one of the best places must be in schools! It is lovely to see the faces of the children light up,listen to the songs. Last year we saw it at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London (which I did write a post about) and it was stunning … just thinking about th occasion brings tears to my eyes.

      Ahh…lovely to have a few moments break with you as we chat and enjoy ‘glögi and piparkakku’! (Love the Finnish for these!)

      Wishing you a warm and joyful holiday with a creative and magical New Year! 🤗

    • Annika Perry says:

      Dear Charley, thank you so much for your lovely comment and I hope the light shines brightly on you too. It is a magical day and even as an adult the music, candlelight tickles my soul with joy and expectation! Wishing you a most special Christmas and a very Happy New Year! X

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