Saint Lucia Day

Several years ago, I wrote about my Carpatho-Rusyn ancestors’ Christmas traditions. The Rusyn branch of my family tree covers 50% of my ancestors since both my paternal grandparents were Carpatho-Rusyns.

The maternal half of my tree mostly consists of English ancestors, with a few Scots and Welsh in the mix. However, aside from my British roots, I do have a Scandinavian branch (3X great grandparents from Denmark and Sweden) so today I am sharing the history and traditions celebrated today in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, honoring Sankta Lucia, as she is known there.

St. Lucia
Public Domain Image

The Feast of Saint Lucy is an ancient celebration, having been established by the Catholic Church in the 6h century A.D.

St. Lucia is a Christian martyr, killed by the Romans on 13 December 304 A.D. She is honored because she risked her life to bring food to early persecuted Christians, who were in hiding. She wore a crown of lit candles to see as she made her way to them, which freed her hands to carry as much food as possible.

Through the centuries, girls, often the eldest daughter in a family, dress in a white robe and wear a crown of candles, as she did.

There are local parades and plays, too and songs, including this one, have been written in her honor:

The night treads heavily
around yards and dwellings
In places unreached by sun,
the shadows brood
Into our dark house, she comes,
bearing lighted candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

As the celebration continues, ginger snaps and lussekatter (buns or cakes shaped like curled up cats) are eaten with glogg or coffee.

In the old Julian calendar, 13 December was winter solstice, the longest night of the year and St. Lucia was seen as bringing light to the world.

In Sweden, 13 December is recognized as the beginning of the Christmas season, so today, I am honoring the memory of both St. Lucia and my Scandinavian ancestors.




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