Saint Lucia Day: celebrating the turning point from darkness to light

In the Nordic countries, the current time of the year is cold and dark. Luckily, Christmas-time celebrations are just around the corner. In the period leading to Christmas, one particular celebration is especially popular: the Saint Lucia Day, a festival of light.

Saint Lucia Day is celebrated on the 13th of December, very close to the Winter Solstice. Being characteristic especially of Sweden, Saint Lucia celebrations have spread into other Nordic countries, as well. On this day, you might see processions of girls dressed in white robes, carrying candles and singing a Saint Lucia song. The procession is also traditionally led by one girl, carrying a crown of candles on her head. These are the so-called Lucia maidens, and they bring light among the darkness – quite literally.

It might seem rather surprising that Saint Lucia, who actually is a martyr saint from the Early Christian period, came to be celebrated in the Nordic countries as the bringer of light. However, the figure of Saint Lucia is traditionally associated with light because of her name, as Lucia is seen to be derived from the Latin word lux (‘light’). Whatever the case, the Saint Lucia Day celebrations that take place in the Nordic countries today have culturally mixed origins. It is probable that the figure of Saint Lucia has converged with pagan Nordic and German traditions that marked the shortest day of the year. And even today, despite being seemingly religious, the Saint Lucia Day is also a secular festivity whose primary function is to celebrate the turning point in the year towards days of longer daylight.

Quite soon, the days will start getting longer again in the North. Saint Lucia has brought the light into the darkness…

Are there similar celebrations in your country? Share your comments with us!


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