December 13th is Santa Lucia, one of the most cherished celebrations in Scandinavia.
Sweden was the first country in the Nordic region to adopt the tale of St Lucia, a 3rd century martyr who wore a candle-lit wreath as she carried food to the needy and spread light in the darkness of winter.
St Lucia’s day is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Small children use electric candles but from 12 years old, real candles are often used!
The crown is made of lingonberry branches which are evergreen and symbolise new life in winter. Schools normally have their own St Lucia's and some town and villages also choose a girl to play St Lucia in a procession where carols are sung.
A national Lucia is also chosen. Lucia’s also visit hospitals and old people's homes singing a song about St Lucia and handing out 'Pepparkakor', ginger snap biscuits.
Small children sometimes like dressing up as Lucia (with the help of their parents!). Also, boys might dress up as 'Stjärngossar' (star boys) and girls might be 'tärnor' (like Lucia but without the candles).
A popular food eaten on St Lucia's day are saffron buns dotted with raisins which are eaten for breakfast.
I’m afraid this year I ran out of time to make saffron buns in time for Santa Lucia, but here is good recipe for baking whenever you have time in December.
As a lover of all things Swedish,
this is one of my most viewed Swedish on line shops, Nordic Nest, for Royal Copenhagen porcelain, to mugs and the snuggest of throws. They always have special offers on Santa Lucia, and they will post to UK.
As a lover of all travel Swedish,
last December I was lucky to go back to Stockholm, this city of contrasts and innovation, and began 2019 here.
Most memorable was to see the world’s largest Christmas tree, or so they say … that possibly the 38-meter-tall tree located at Skeppsbrokajen, in the part of Gamla Stan located opposite the island of Skeppsholmen, is the largest in the world. This Kinnevik tree is actually a sculpture with branches mounted to a more than century old spruce trunk. Pretty though!
And staying at Hotel Skeppsholmen, set in a charming 1690’s building on a peaceful city island was the most perfect place for New Year in Stockholm.
Happy St Lucia Day, the festival of light and beginning of the Christmas season.