Sankta Lucia

Today, the feast day of Sankta Lucia as she is known in Swedish, is a particularly important Saints day in Sweden and Norway. We have some Swedish friends in Brighton, well Hove, actually, who always hold a Sankta Lucia party. This year it was celebrated on Sunday. The children process all dressed in white holding a single candle each, which this year were battery operated rather than the flame-inducing kind. They are led by someone dressed as Saint Lucy wearing a crown of candles, which were real incidentally. She wore a wet flannel on her head to avoid hot candle wax dripping onto her scalp.

In Sweden, the procession is traditionally formed of women and girls exclusively. I believe that each of the cities, each year,  will elect someone to be Sankta Lucia. An honour indeed.

During the procession on Sunday, which took the elaborate route of down the stairs and round the living room a couple times, we all sang the hymn Sankta Lucia, without an accordion. It was interesting to see that anyone who was Swedish at the party, could sing this hymn from memory. Singing this is such an integral part of their culture. I always feel sad that in England, we have lost so much of our ‘folk’ tradition. Apart from the annual Christmas carol-athon we never sing together as families or friends anymore. If you look at the selection in the Oxford Book of Carols, for example. carols were pieces of music sang at all times of the years. Bring back wassailing!

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3 thoughts on “Sankta Lucia

  1. Ben Whitworth says:

    It’s a lovely custom, which we keep here in Orkney on account of our historical links with Norway. Lucia & her attendants process into the Cathedral for a short service, and are then piped out to the big Norwegian spruce outside while the lights are switched on. It’s a unique bit of Scoto-Norwegian cultural fusion. Lucy in the sleet with bagpipes.

  2. Amette says:

    How interesting. I went to Mass in Westminster Cathedral that day and the priest said in his homily that the song is about the town of Santa Lucia near Napoli and has nothing to do with the saint. I wonder where the song/hymn originated – who appropriated what?

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