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Sankta Lucia in Sweden Posted by on Dec 13, 2011 in food, Holidays, music

A couple of years ago, we wrote about the Lucia tradition in Sweden. But with it being the 13th of December yet again, it was time to give a quick refresher course.

The Lucia tradition involves a woman dressed in white with a crown of candles upon her head. Following her are several young boys, also dressed in white, with conical star covered hats on their heads, and several women dressed in, you guessed it, white. The woman appointed to be Lucia is usually carrying baked goods and coffee to serve.  Known as Luciatågs (literally a Lucia train), these processions wander through offices and schools on December 13th spreading light and delicious fika materials.

Katja did a great job of explaining some of the baked goods that make a traditional Lucia day a few days ago when she wrote Lussekatter, Lussebullar and Lusselängd. If you’re feeling adventurous, check it out and try baking your own Lussekatter. Be warned, they do call for saffron and saffron is not cheap.

Along with the candles, the coffee, and the baked goods is the singing.  There are several Lucia songs that could be considered classic, but the one that always comes to mind from my time in Sweden is simply titled Sankta Lucia

The melody (apparently) is an old Neopolitan one, but there are several different lyrical versions. Below, you will find a lovely rendition on YouTube, as well as the accompanying text. Enjoy:

Sankta Lucia, ljusklara hägring,
sprid i vår vinternatt glans av din fägring.
||: Drömmar med vingesus under oss sia,
tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia. :||

Kom i din vita skrud, huld med din maning.
Skänk oss, du julens brud, julfröjders aning.
||: Drömmar med vingesus, under oss sia,
tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia. :||

Trollsejd och mörkermakt ljust du betvingar,
signade lågors vakt skydd åt oss bringar.
||: Drömmar med vingesus, under oss sia,
tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia. :||

Stjärnor som leda oss, vägen att finna,
bli dina klara bloss, fagra prästinna.
||: Drömmar med vingesus, under oss sia,
tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia. :||

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


Comments:

  1. Linda:

    My paternal grandfather was a Swedish immigrant, and typical to the time, he wanted to be 100% American and did not speak Swedish or keep any of his native traditions. However, my mother would occasionally get it through her head that we should learn some of them.

    The December of my 10th year she decided we should try out Santa Lucia.

    She got me up early one Sunday (I was not particularly pleased) and dressed me in the Swedish girl costume my grandparents had brought back from a trip to Sweden. She placed on my head a styrofoam ring covered in plastic holly with 4 candles implanted in it. Then she lit the candles! Imagine a tall, gangly 10 year old with wavy blonde hair cascading and fire on her head. I was pertified! She then put a tray of breakfast cakes and drinks in my hand and told me I was to serve them to my father in bed.

    I ever so slowly worked my way to his bedroom, careful not to tilt my head. When I got there, of course my dad was asleep. I stood at the foot of the bed and gently called “Dad” until he awoke. Panic filled his face when his bleary eyes saw his daughter on fire! I assured him I was OK, that I was Santa Lucia delivering his breakfast to him. He struggled to sit up, propping a pillow behind his back. I placed the tray on his lap and he reached for the glass of water. As he brought it to his lips, I started to say “that’s aquavit,” but too late. He swallowed it in 2 gulps and his eyes popped out of his head! Once he finished gagging and choking and clearing his throat, he downed the glass of OJ and asked why I didn’t warn him. “I tried” was all I could mumble, not sure if he was mad at me.

    I really don’t remember anything else about this home-grown Santa Lucia. I think I was too traumatized at this point. My mother must have relieved me of my burning crown without incident, as I have no physical scars, but I do evoke howls of laughter when I tell this true tale at Holiday time.

  2. Marcus Cederström:

    Great story!