Celebrating St. Lucia Day! - eat2explore

Celebrating St. Lucia Day!

We're in the time of year when many cultures celebrate with light and candles. Let's explore another such celebration!

What is St. Lucia Day?

St. Lucia Day is a festival which takes place on December 13 every year in places like Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Bosnia, Croatia, and even Italy. It honors a lady named Lucy—Saint Lucy.

It’s also called the festival of lights. It’s said that this celebration has been taking place in Sweden since at least the 1300s. It’s a celebration of light in the darkness. The Scandinavian countries, like Sweden, have very long and dark winters.

On the Gregorian calendar, December 13th was the date of the winter solstice. That’s the longest night of the year.

When the Julian calendar replaced the Gregorian calendar, the date was kept and it’s still celebrated to this day on December 13th, even though winter solstice moved to the 21st or 22nd of December.

Other cultures celebrate with candles and light including the Hindu Diwali, and the Jewish Hanukkah.

Who was St. Lucia?

Lucia wasn’t from Sweden. She was actually from Syracuse, Italy. And in Christianity, she was one of the earliest martyrs. People celebrate her life and honor her death.

There is a legend surrounding Lucia. It says that while she was living in Italy, there were many people of the Christian faith who took to hiding in the catacombs of the city. The catacombs are underground passageways or burial grounds.

dark catacomb illuminated by candles

These people were hiding out because the ruler of Italy punished people who didn’t believe in the same kind of religion that everyone else believed in. If you were different, they were really mean about it.

Lucia knew about these people and she wanted to help them. At night, she would dress in white and put a wreath of candles on her head and take food to the people who were hiding.

She wore the wreath of candles so she had her hands free to carry the food. She would deliver the food to the people and they knew it was her because she came bearing the light of her wreath.

She brought light to the darkness they were living in.

This is where the modern-day costumes of St. Lucia come from.

How is St. Lucia’s Day celebrated?

The morning of December 13th, a family member wakes up before everyone else in the house. It’s usually the job of the oldest daughter.

She puts on a long, white dress and an evergreen wreath with candles. Then she gathers up breakfast for everyone in the house.

This breakfast is made up of a saffron bread called lussekatter, ginger bread cookies and coffee or a Swedish mulled wine, called glögg.

lussekatter or swedish saffron buns on a plate

The saffron buns, lussekatter, are shaped like curled-up cats with raisins for eyes!

Playing St. Lucia, delivering food to all the members of her family to wake them up, the daughter begins the celebrations of St. Lucia Day.

People also participate in parades through town during the day. The girls are dressed in white, with a red sash tied at their waist, and a wearing a wreath of candles.

They use electric candles now, much safer that way!

girls dressed as st lucia carrying food

There is usually one girl chosen to be St. Lucia, and the rest are her handmaidens who follow her and carrying candles for the parade.

The boys dress in white also, and they wear paper crowns. They carry staffs topped with cut out stars. They are St. Lucia’s “star boys.”

The celebrations for St. Lucia’s Day mark the beginning of the Christmas season in Sweden! School is even out early to allow families to get ready for it!

After the parades are finished, people gather together for the St. Lucia’s Day feast.

Some of the yummy dishes enjoyed for St. Lucia’s Day in Sweden are Swedish meatballs served with lingonberry jam, baked ham, and rye bread. 

swedish meatballs and baked ham for st lucia's day

Your family can light some candles in celebration of St. Lucia's Day as you enjoy the delicious recipes from our Sweden box at eat2explore!

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1 comment

What a wonderful explanation of St. Lucy Day. We celebrate it in our school each year by planting winter wheat that will sprout at Christmas. St. Lucy is the patroness for healthy eyes and blindness.

Anne Wojick

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