Today is a special day in the Swedish festive calendar. It’s Lucia.
Who or what is Lucia? According to legend, Lucia was a Sicilian martyr who died in 304 AD. Over the centuries, the commemoration of her life has morphed into a celebration of light at the darkest time of the year in Scandinavia.
Candlelit processions to light up the December darkness
Lucia is always celebrated on December 13. Until the 1750s, Sweden used the Julian calendar when this date marked Midwinter, the longest night of the year, and the date has stuck.
All across Sweden today, processions of singers clad in white gowns and carrying lit candles will bring the spirit of togetherness and light to schools, airports, hospital wards, hotels, offices and shopping centres.
Everyone's included at Lucia
I have fond memories of celebrating Lucia during my years at school. In my teens, I sang at an old people’s home with the choir I was in. The sight of the elderly residents with tears rolling down their faces during our performance has stayed with me. Knowing we brought them joy was like being lit up from the inside. Perhaps it evoked memories of their experiences celebrating Lucia as children or with their own families.
And that’s really what Lucia is all about; spreading kindness and warmth to others, and doing something positive to put darkness in its place.
Yellow fluffy buns and coffee
Another way this is done is by taking some time out to enjoy coffee, special saffron buns and gingerbread biscuits. I have carried this tradition forward to my family in Surrey, and here you can see the buns I made yesterday. If you fancy trying them out for yourself, why not try this recipe from Scandinavian Kitchen? Just don’t skimp on the saffron, it is what makes these buns so yummy!
Lucia in St Paul's Cathedral
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a special Lucia concert in St Paul’s Cathedral in London hosted by them and the Swedish Church in London. Partway through the service, all the lights were switched off. To sit in that huge building, home to hundreds of years of history, in the pitch black, and gradually see the space fill with light and beautiful song as the Lucia procession filed past was truly atmospheric. If you have the chance to go, do – it’s a real treat for the senses.
The tickets are usually on sale via the Swedish Church from the start of September.