St. Lucia in Sweden
Lucia is perhaps the biggest advent tradition in Sweden, and for the music, white gowns, candles and artistic beauty – it is definitely worth seeing if you can. (And you won’t have to go far to find a Lucia pageant across Stockholm at this time of year.)
In days gone by, the feast of Lucia was celebrated during the Winter Solstice and while it continues to happen during the darkest part of the year, December 13th is the day officially given to Lucia in Sweden – with the days around it also being used to celebrate this festival of light.
In Sweden, the tradition of Lucia derives from both pagan and Christian origins with different sources citing both St. Lucia of Syracuse, a martyr who died in the year 304, and on a Swedish legend, who is thought to have consorted with the devil. The name Lucia, is sometimes thought to be associated with both lux (latin word for ‘light’) and Lucifer (‘Satan’). However today, Lucia has become more of a cultural celebration across Sweden and is a tradition that continues through the generations.
In a Lucia procession, typically a girl will take on the role of Lucia and will wear light in her hair which is often a headdress containing lit candles (Sweden’s health of safety continues to baffle me) . She will be accompanied by both girls and boys, dressed in white, bearing candles as they sing songs, around the theme of bringing light into the darkness.
Natten går tunga fjät – Night Walks with a Heavy Step is a common Lucia song sung during the procession and translates:
Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia!
Here is a Lucia Spotify Playlist of other common Swedish songs you are likely to hear around this time of year (with a couple of English translations thrown in for good measure):
And of course, no celebration would be complete in Sweden without a small Christmas fika. Lussekatter (saffron buns), Pepparkakor (thin gingerbread snaps) and glögg (sweet mulled wine) are sure to make an appearance around Lucia!
Where to see Lucia in Stockholm
Most large churches across the city will have Lucia pageant’s happening throughout this weekend, on the 13th December and even beyond with many events happening across the city. Lucia Pangeants can even be found in larger department stores during this time and many offices have their own Lucia celebrations. And the best part? Many of them are free – which is great for our shoestring budget!
While many Lucia Pageant’s are now ticketed events, Immanuel Church in Stockholm offers a FREE Lucia Pageant showcasing some of the classes from Adolf Fredrick’s Music School at 8:00 (in the morning) on 13th December.
All Photos © Anita Tatlow
8th December 2016
And if you're planning on visiting Stockholm any time soon, Booking.com has some great deals on hotels in and around the city. Highly recommended!