Santa Lucia on the 13th of December is a day of celebration, religion and myth in Sweden. The celebration comes from the amalgamation of several different traditions, which have now come together in a national (and Scandinavia-wide) day of events, processions and celebration.
I will explain more below, but first get an insight into this celebration by watching the short video below that I made from filming the local Gymnasieskola Santa Lucia choir.
(Please note the mention of ‘Pepparkakor’ and ‘Glögg’ at the end – traditional Santa Lucia food apparently – in other words Gingerbread and Mulled-Wine!)
So now that you have more of an idea of its current form, I will give some background to the roots.
I have been researching and found out that the original tradition of this night was Lussinatta. This is kind of strange because this ‘Lussi’ was an evil demon/spirit/witch who would come along with a cohort of evil spirits, trolls and such-like to cause havoc between the 13th December and 25th December. At that point the shortest day was perceived to the be the 13th December and they celebrated the pagan tradition of Yule on the 25th. So the people would stay in the homes, afraid of the evil spirits, and stay up all night drinking together to make sure that nothing bad happened to their family or livestock!
Then at some point the Swedes started to celebrate this Saint from Sicily called Lucia; this was possibly as early as the Middle Ages but it had not developed into its modern form until more recently. The reason why it has been so popular in the Nordic countries is probably due to its exploration of themes of light and darkness, as this is very relevant in the Northern Hemisphere!
The widespread parades and the choosing of a ‘Lucia’ every year in the towns and cities has actually only been the tradition since 1927 when Stockholm elected an official Lucia and publicised it; this was then picked up all around the country.
If you want more detail about Santa Lucia celebrations there is a pretty detailed Wikipedia page and also the official Sweden site talks about the current celebrations: www.sweden.se