What is Saint Lucia Day and where it is celebrated

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Is Christmas by any other name still Christmas? Well yes! And, it has many names and is indeed celebrated differently all over the world. In Scandinavia, around Christmas, one of the biggest celebrations is that of Saint Lucia, a young girl who was martyred in 304. The feast of Saint Lucia is celebrated every year on December 13th.

What is Saint Lucia Day

Saint Lucia’s Day marks the start of the Christmas season and honors the memory of Saint Lucia, a young Christian girl who was persecuted and ultimately killed after being accused of smuggling food to Christians living and hiding in the labyrinths of underground catacombs under the city of Rome.

The tradition dates back to 1764. Travel writer Rick Steves writes: “The Scandinavian version of the legend is that a young woman born to wealthy and noble parents – dressed in a white dress with a red sash and wearing a crown of lingonberry twigs and blazing candles – traveled from farm to farm in the early morning of December 13th. She carried a torch to light her way, bringing baked goods to every house, returning home at sunrise.

Where is Saint Lucia Day celebrated?

Today, Saint Lucia’s Day is celebrated on December 13 throughout Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Bosnia, Croatia, and Swedish-speaking parts of Finland. Townspeople pay their respects with a candlelit procession described by cultural site Sweden.se as “one of the most exotic Swedish customs”.

How is the feast of Saint Lucia celebrated?

As legend has it, the procession is led by a girl, dressed as Saint Lucia, wearing a traditional white dress, red sash and wreath of candles. She is closely followed by “maids” and “star boys” holding candles, also dressed in white robes, wearing staffs topped with stars and conical paper hats on their heads.

It’s an honor to be chosen as Saint Lucia, and traditionally, small towns all over Scandinavia bestow it on one of their own. According to WhyChristmas.com, people chosen as Saint Lucia become immediate local celebrities, often making public appearances, visiting hospitals and performing charity work.

On the day of the festival, schools and businesses close early so that everyone can prepare. After sunset, the children’s procession begins, each singing traditional Saint Lucian songs. The slow-moving, candlelit parade is described as moving and “a reminder of life in peasant communities of the past.”

The traditional food served at each festival varies by city but often includes Lussekatts, which are saffron-flavored buns, topped with raisins and served with Swedish mulled wine or coffee. Children are also known to hand out ginger cookies during the procession.

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