In Sweden ‘December 13th’ is not just a date – it is Lucia! For all non-Swedish people that probably never heard about this, Lucia is a Christmas tradition celebrated in Sweden and Norway every year on December 13th. On this day girls and boys dress up in white, full-length gowns and sing songs together. It is one of the most deep-rooted traditions in Sweden and all Swedes know the standard Lucia song by heart.
According to ancient history, Lucia is a mythical figure with the role as a bearer of light into the dark Swedish winters, and tradition has it that Lucia should wear ‘light in her hair’. A ‘Lucia-train’ (or ‘Lussetåg’ in Swedish) is when the dressed up adults or children walk in a line singing for audience. The contest on who will get to be Lucia or not is tough, although that depends on your age and purpose since it ranges from small children walking a ‘Lussetåg’ in day care centres, to crowning the national Lucia on live TV. Among the youngest, everyone has the privilege to be Lucia, but with age the competition gets tougher and tougher.
Along with Lucia, who is walking with candles (or nowadays mostly electric candles) in her hair, walk handmaidens carrying a candle and with glitter in their hair. There will also be little Santa’s helpers, star boys with tall paper cones on their head, and finally gingerbread-men. This ‘Lussetåg’ performs a range of songs in grocery stores, old-age homes, offices, schools and churches. I dare say that if you happen to be in Sweden for Lucia, you will not manage to escape this tradition and at least one ‘Lussetåg’ will cross your path during the day.
To eat on Lucia are the sweet saffron-flavoured buns called ‘Lussekatter’ and gingerbread cookies together with Glögg (Swedish version of Glühwine) or coffee. As a tradition Swedish kids will wake up their parents with singing ‘Lussetåg’ and baked goods with coffee on the morning of Lucia.
If you are still unsure about the Lucia celebration or want to know more, take a look at this clip: “Swedish Lucia for Dummies”.