Do you want to experience the magic of Luciadagen, the festival of light and hope in Sweden? Then you should watch this video from Malmö, where the city is illuminated by the Lucia procession, the choir of white-clad singers.
But Luciadagen is not only about watching and listening, it is also about tasting and sharing. That is why I invite you to join me at fika, the Swedish tradition of having coffee and snacks with friends. And what better snacks than the traditional lussekatter, the saffron buns shaped like curled-up cats with raisins for eyes? They are soft, sweet, and fragrant, and they symbolize the sun that will soon return. So come on, let’s enjoy this festive occasion together and spread some warmth and joy!
Luciadagen, or Saint Lucy’s Day, is celebrated on December 13th in Sweden and other Nordic countries. It marks the feast day of Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr who died in the 4th century. According to legend, she secretly brought food and light to the persecuted Christians who hid in the dark catacombs of Rome. She wore a wreath of candles on her head to free her hands and guide her way.
The tradition of honoring Saint Lucia in Sweden dates back to the Middle Ages, when December 13th was also the winter solstice in the old Julian calendar. It was the longest and darkest night of the year, and people believed that evil spirits and supernatural forces were at their strongest. To ward off the darkness and evil, they lit bonfires and candles, and prayed for the return of the sun.
Modern Luciadagen celebrations
The modern celebrations of Luciadagen are not only limited to the Lucia procession and the choir singing. There are also other customs and activities that make the day special and festive. For example, many people wake up early in the morning to watch the sunrise and enjoy a traditional breakfast of coffee, saffron bread, and gingerbread cookies. Some families also have their own Lucia at home, where the eldest daughter dresses up as Lucia and serves the breakfast to her parents and siblings.
Another important part of Luciadagen is fika, the Swedish tradition of having coffee and snacks with friends, family, or colleagues. During Luciadagen, the most popular snack is the lussekatt, a saffron bun shaped like a curled-up cat with raisins for eyes. The lussekatt is said to symbolize the sun that will soon return after the long winter nights. Other treats that are common during Luciadagen are pepparkakor (thin and crispy gingerbread cookies), glögg (mulled wine with spices and raisins), and julmust (a carbonated soft drink with a distinctive flavor).
Luciadagen is also a time to enjoy music and entertainment. Besides the traditional songs that are sung by the Lucia choir, there are also other musical performances and concerts that take place in various venues. Some of them are classical, some are modern, and some are a mix of both. There are also comedy shows, theater plays, and dance performances that celebrate Luciadagen in a humorous or artistic way. Luciadagen is a day to have fun and be merry, as well as to appreciate the beauty and meaning of the light.
Lucia and Her Cortege
Lucia is usually portrayed by a girl or a woman with long blonde hair, wearing a white gown and a red sash around her waist. On her head, she wears a wreath of lingonberry branches and candles, either real or electric.
Her companions are called tärnor (maids) and stjärngossar (star boys). The tärnor wear white gowns and carry candles in their hands, while the stjärngossar wear white shirts and cone-shaped hats with stars on them. Sometimes, there are also other characters in the procession, such as tomtenissar (Santa’s elves), pepparkaksgubbar (gingerbread men), and julbockar (Christmas goats).
Luciadagen is a celebration of light and hope, a reminder that even in the darkest times, there is always something to look forward to and be grateful for. I hope you enjoyed this journey with me, and I hope you will join me again next year for another magical Luciadagen!