Saturday, 12 December 2015

December 12/13 - Lucia

I have blogged about our celebrations of 13th December as Lucia/St Lucy’s Day several times before – for example last year. This year’s official crowning of a Lucia in my town took place as usual last Saturday; but it was such a dark, wet and stormy day that I was not even sure they’d go through with the event… So I did not go. (To be honest – even if I had known for certain that the ceremony would take place as usual, I would not have gone out in that weather for it!)

Nowadays, the celebration of Lucia also every year causes heated debates in schools and the media etc. An article from The Local Sweden may give you a rough idea: Six things not to say on Sweden’s Lucia Day.

Clipart from

For some reason, we (and by “we” I mean all mankind, not just Swedes) seem very prone to assume that traditions have always been what they are – or should always remain as we remember them from our own childhood, or whatever other time in our lives that we consider to have been the best of times…

For me, my most fun Lucia night was probably around 40 years ago, when I was member of a youth gospel choir, and some of us planned a kind of coup. The initiated ones (8 people) gathered very early in the morning, dressed in various Lucia kinds of outfits. And then we went all over town to wake up and surprise one after the other of the other choir members in their homes, and ask them to come along. (I don’t remember details but we must have had a few cars to begin with. And I think we were supposed to sing in the church later or the next day, so that even those not initiated in the prank probably had their outfits ready.) The final visit was to our youth pastor with family. By then there were 25 of us; more or less the whole choir. I know this because of photos with notes in an album. 

Doesn’t feel right to share those photos here, so instead I show you one from one of my grandmother’s albums, which provides evidence that Lucia traditions have not always been about an Italian saint wearing a crown of candles handing out saffron buns – and points, perhaps, to even older magic being connected to this night (once upon a time considered the longest night of the year).  

It is a rare photo, and I’ve never seen another like it. But a note beneath it in the album connects it to “lusse”=Lucia night. The note also gives the name of a village; but it’s not the village where my grandparents lived, and I don’t know who they may have known who lived there, or who the people behind the masks are. There is no date, and the photos have not been put into the album in chronological order either. Possibly the couple sitting in front could be my grandparents, though. In which case I think it would most likely be from around 1929 (which is the year when they got engaged).

PS. This post will have to cover both today and tomorrow. I feel I need a bit of a break! 

PPS. And Windows Live Writer is refusing to post to Blogger again. Driving me mad. I was hoping yesterday that it would just prove temporary but the same thing happened today. I haven't had time to investigate why. It's been quicker to just do the last two posts over again in Blogger...


  1. I remember your past Lucia posts, and I very well understand why you didn't go to the procession this year. Stormy, wet, cold weather doesn't hold much appeal for going out, does it!
    That's the whole point of a tradition, isn't it, that it does NOT change - or at least not noticeably so. There will always be subtle changes over the years, but the overall "theme" of a special day should still remain the same. Exception: Traditions that are harmful to people or animals.

    1. Meike, the fact is though, that traditions do change. Sometimes gradually, and sometimes because an official change is enforced. In Sweden Yuletide was celebrated long before Christianity was introduced. Then the reasons for the midwinter celebrations were changed (no doubt because the old traditions were considered harmful). But there are still parts of our traditions that go back to pre-Christian times - mixed through the years with new additions - not only Christian but also "post-Christian".

  2. Processions on stormy nights don't appeal to me either. As for Blogger at the moment it's driving me mad because it doesn't seem to want to process my comments properly. And keeps refusing to load properly. Of course it could be the browser or computer but everything else seems to be working well at the moment.

    1. I still haven't looked into my publishing problems any further today Graham, but just now commenting seems not to be a problem for me. (From the phone it always is, so I've more or less given up on that. But on the computer it usually works.)

  3. i first learned of your traditions of Lucia in several post from the past. i have since then seen a few others talk about it. even what America calls a traditional Christmas has changed. traditions do change with time for sure.

    1. They do indeed, Sandra. Just consider the fact that back in our childhood there was no television involved, for example... ;)


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