St. Lucia’s Day is also known as the Feast of Saint Lucy or Sankta Lucia in Sweden. It is a Christian feast day that commemorates her sainthood. Her feast day also coincides with the shortest day of the year prior to calendar reforms. Scandinavians celebrate it.
“In Scandinavia, where Saint Lucy is called Santa Lucia in Norwegian and Danish, and Sankta Lucia in Swedish, she is represented as a lady in a white dress (a symbol of a Christian’s white baptismal robe) and red sash (symbolizing the blood of her martyrdom) with a crown or wreath of candles on her head.”Wikipedia
I attended an International School as a child so I got to see all the Swedish students dress up for this event. They would turn off all the lights in the theater, walking in pairs with lights on their heads.
Both boys and girls got to participate. The girls were in the lead and the stay boys got to be “handmaidens”. They dressed in white gowns and carried stars on sticks and paper cones on their heads.
Sankta Lucia in Sweden
“Tradition has it that Lucia is to wear ‘light in her hair’, which in practice means a crown of electric candles in a wreath on her head. Each of her handmaidens carries a candle, too.”Sweden.se
There is only one Lucia in each “parade.” This role is quite competitive. In the past, a national Lucia of Sweden was voted in. Since Sweden is very politically correct and doesn’t like to rank people, they do not do this anymore.
Sankta Lucia is the second most popular tradition in Sweden second to Midsummer. The origin of Lucia in Sweden is more than just a Christian saint. She is a an ancient mythical figure with an abiding role as a bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters.
Apparently, all Swedes know the standard Lucia song by heart. On December 13th, the song is overplayed on the radio. It is performed by church choirs and various singers.
There are many Lucia songs, however they all have the same theme:
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.
You can read more about Christmas traditions form all over the world on The Travel Bug Bite.