Happy Lucia!

Friday is Lucia, and though many non-Swedes seem to be aware
of us celebrating, they aren't exactly sure what it entails. So today
I thought I'd bring some clarity into this somewhat confusing tradition.

But instead of going into the historical background about the Italian
saint Lucia (who was a selfless soul who helped women and children,
the poor and the homeless - and of course was burnt on the stake for it)
I thought I'd just go through our different traditions, from top to bottom.

The pageants

Swedes pride ourselves on being modern and progressive, but we cling
to our Lucia pageants. Every December in towns all over Sweden,
a number of singing girls are nominated to be that year's Lucia
and 95% of the time they are pretty and tall, with long blond hair.

All the girls who are nominated become Tärnor after the Lucia is elected.
Then Lucia and her train travel the area and perform at schools, malls
and retirement homes. In the bigger cities, becoming Lucia can be a big deal,
as you get to perform on the main square during the Jul celebrations.
The church concert of the Stockholm Lucia is broad-casted on TV.

 The set-up
In a proper Lucia train there are Tärnor (girls in night gowns with
glitter in their hair) and Stjärngossar (boys in nightgowns with white-
and-gold cones on their heads). Sometimes you also get Tomtenissar
 (Santa-looking elves) and Pepparkaksgubbar (gingerbread men).

They perform most songs together, but traditionally they also perform
different songs depending on outfit. For instance, the Pepparkaksgubbar
might sing a song about coming from Candyland, or the Tomtenissar sing
about sneaking around the house late at night, eating porridge.

Lucia is a celebration of bringing light into the darkest time of year,
and as such the performances are usually made in dark rooms
where all the lights in Lucia's hair and in the hands of her followers
make for a cozy and pretty sight. They usually enter and leave singing.


The school plays

Lower and middle schools put on plays and little shows around Lucia.
Most of the time the kids just dress up and (if they're old enough) sing,
but some also do the nativity scene, little concerts or recite poems.

 I loved acting when I was younger, so I always got a talking part.
I still remember some of the Advent poems I performed, and since
I was one of the few in my year with dark hair and brown eyes,
I have played Jesus's mother more than a few times...


On the night of the 12th there are always club events called Lussevaka
all over Sweden, where (under age) kids get drunk and dance into the night.
Literally the word means to "wait in Lucia", since she is supposed to be
visiting in the early hours of the morning on the 13th.

20 years ago when I was still in school, us students used to "Lussa" for
the teachers we liked. When the Lussevaka closed we changed into
Lucia garb, brewed some coffee and went visiting with the teachers.
We brought saffron buns and sang for them (though some of us were
mostly sick in the teacher's bushes...) - then we went straight to class...

I know that some students at Universities still "Lussa" for professors,
but I don't know if it is as common on a high school level anymore.

As mentioned before, this week many of my friends will bake
these very buns and they will also see at least one Lucia train,
either in the cafeteria at work, at their kid's school or at church.

I don't really celebrate Lucia - except for gorging on Lussekatter.
That's why this post is not part of my Celebrating MY way challenge.
But on Sunday I will once again post about our holidays,
and also host a fabulous giveaway - I hope to see you there!


23 kommentarer:

  1. Wow!
    I've never heard of Lucia celebrations before.
    Thank you for sharing :)

    My Christmas tree goes up tomorrow (12th), so I'll be taking plenty of pictures for Sunday's post.

    Have a lovely day :)

    1. We are also putting up the tree tomorrow, since it's my day off this week - so I too will have tree pictures in Sunday's post :)

  2. I remember learning about the Lucia celebration from the children's tv show Arthur on their Christmas special! I also had the Swedish immigrant American Girl doll Kirsten as a child and she had a Lucia costume and everything, I always thought the festivities were so beautiful!

    1. I had to look her up, and she does look very traditionally Swedish! However, Kirsten is not a Swedish name, it's Danish. The closest we have would be Kerstin, which is pronounced "Shèrstin" :)

  3. Wow, you were Jesus' mother, Ms. Misantropia? ;o) Was that okay with you, or were you always disappointed you weren't one of the tall blonde girls picked to be a Lucia?

    Lussevaka sounds like fun ... wish they'd had something like that over here when I was underage. LOL

    1. I was never disappointed not being Lucia, but being Maria obviously scarred me for life! ;) And Lussevaka was great fun, except the time my friend got so sick in someone's bushes her mom had to pick her up, and she slapped my friend right across her face for being drunk... It was weird to witness.

  4. Jag var aldrig heller lucia, kort och mörk, förutom en gång då mina klasskompisar beordrade mig att sätta på mig kronan för att lussa hos matteläraren i gymnasiet. Lite märkligt att kliva in i någons sovrum sådär :D. Jo han låg och sov och vi hade kollat med frugan först så hon släppte in oss.
    Jag får min dos imorgon när yngste sonen ska vara tomte." Inte fn ska jag ha nån jkla strut o klänning". Luvan var borta så jag fick ta en röd yllemössa och knåpa dit en vit tofs ( usch vad varmt det ska bli).

    1. Jag håller med din son, inte fan ska jag ha något nattlinne! Jag gillar att ha luva och vara tomte faktiskt :)

  5. Pagan question: the crown of candles in Lucia's hair reminds me of those used at Imbolc for Brigid. Any connection?

    1. I haven't found any connection searching, but since almost every holiday nowadays is a mishmash of old traditions, it wouldn't surprise me. Try looking up Tomten-Sinterklaas-Julbocken-Santa Claus-Krampus-Green man for instance. Back in the day Swedes knew nothin of Santa, but we dressed up as gentle horned dudes, bringing presents around Jul.

  6. This was such an interesting post, and I learned a lot. That's cool that you enjoy enjoyed acting.

    My daughter also had the doll that someone mentioned. The doll was suppose to be a Swede living in Minnesota.

    1. Well, I had lots of American Barbies, so it's all good :)

      Your giveaway gift is now in the mail, so I'm hoping you might get it before Christmas!

  7. We celebrate El Dia de Santa Lucía, too. But in my village we never had any ceremony to choose a girl--the oldest girl of the house was Santa Lucía for the day. She would get up really early and give us coffee, hot chocolate.

    Hm, I wonder if the Catholic Church does it around here. I must investigate!

    1. That sounds like both an honor and a hassle - I never agreed with the whole early-morning thing :)

    2. My sister was never happy about it. Until someone suggested that if she was not up to it, I could sure do it. And that I would probably handle it better anyway. She never complained again. I know, adults can be quite horrible. lol

  8. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but Lussevaka sounds much like waiting for the Great Pumpkin. I had heard about pagents and the white gowns and lights but the other costumes and the "Lussa" for teachers is all new to me.
    I do enjoy learning about other customs. Thank you for sharing.

    1. No disrespect possible - I'm sure young kids will always find reasons to get drunk on week nights ;) And now I'm gonna have to look up waiting for the Great Pumpkin, because there is always room for more Halloween traditions in my repertoire!

  9. I loved the pic of the children with the adorable gingerbread costumes - a bit cuter than the boys with cones on their heads ... although they do look a bit like Dumbledore! Thanks for sharing all the awesome info and pics with us. :-)

  10. what a wonderful holiday, and such childhood memories you have.

    1. I think the holidays are probably the most vivid memories I have from being a kid, and that's probably true for many :)

  11. I feel like such a dope. I didn't link to your site. I posted my family and the tree but I failed to post to your blog. OOOOOOPS. http://lindaomasoldebaggsnstuftshirts.blogspot.com/2013/12/how-do-you-celebrate-week-3.html

  12. And I know this is strange but I never really wanted to be Lucia.....but I always wanted to be one of the star boys. My family would just shake their heads. Oh well.


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