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!


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.