Swedish Christmas is rich with tradition. Advent started the Sunday before last, and we set a match to the first two candle-lights. Our apartment is littered with candles. Darkness dominates our days at present but in every window in the city, it seems, there is a peaked row of seven candles, a reminder of light in our darkness. It is very beautiful.
This morning a little after seven the pre-school opposite our flat was crowded with visitors. Scattered candles in the schoolyard flamed out in the night which still covered our world. I wondered why so many parents were here so early today. Lucia, Maria said.
Lucia. The patron saint of light in the darkness. A Swedish tradition going back several centuries, marked by a procession of girls crowned with candles, singing the familiar strains of Santa Lucia. But with Swedish words, roughly translated:
The night goes with heavy steps
around farm and cottage;
round the earth the sun has forsaken,
the shadows are brooding.
There in our darkened house,
stands with lighted candles
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.
Saint Lucia did not, of course, stand in our house. But the lighted candles were and are there, and will remain through the months of darkness ahead. And the procession outside reminded us of the coming of light in the darkness.
Tonight we attended a Lucia celebration at Sörbykyrkan. Complete with the procession and Swedish carols and lots of candles. The other Lucia tradition is sweet saffron buns, and there were plenty to enjoy with coffee before and after the celebration. The church was packed.
In the beginning was the Word…
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness…