Today was Lucia. Or more rightly said, in English, St Lucy’s Day. Not really something we celebrate in Australia but its a big deal here. Hanna and Samuel headed off to their first Lucia concert at 6.40 this morning, clad in flowing white gowns, as the occasion demands. The rest of us watched a Lucia concert in Stockholm on TV, where a high school choir of beautiful young Swedes sang the old familiar songs which we hear every year on this day. Sweden is an amazingly ritualistic country. There is a certain comfort in the sameness of every year.
Lucia was a young girl in Italy in the third century who became a Christian early in life but was then married off to a non-believer who was not sympathetic to his wife’s faith. She apparently took the opportunity to give away some of his wealth to the poor, which did not go down well. He decided to have her killed, which was something that people often seemed to do to Christians under the Roman emperors of the first three centuries after Christ. Lucia was remarkably resistant to death. The bonfire that was meant to burn her up was apparently ineffective. Various other gruesome attempts at murder also failed. Eventually she was successfully beheaded.
In the Swedish celebration there is also a person chosen for the day to be Lucia. She does not sing but just looks beautiful, leading a procession of white clad followers singing Santa Lucia, the well known song. Lucia always has a crown of candles. Wikipedia says that one of the proposed reasons for this was that the original Lucia used to smuggle food to Christians in hiding in the catacombs of ancient Rome, and in order to use both hands to carry stuff she set the candles on a crown on her head.
How this person came to be so important in Sweden I am not sure. The day itself marks what was once thought to be the longest night of the year. It was celebrated in pre-christian Sweden and like many pagan festivals was later christianised. However it has only been celebrated in its present form since the 1920s.
It certainly is dark at this time of the year. But the last few days have been gloriously sunny, if very short. It is good to know that in just over a week the shortest day will have passedlucia and then we can start the ascent from darkness to the glorious Swedish summer.