December 24, 2008
FROM THE ARCHIVES: IMPORTING THE SUPERIOR CULTURE:
The Lowdown: Lucia: It's one of the most enduring Swedish winter traditions. The tradition of Lucia brings some much needed light into Sweden's winter darkness (James Savage, 12 Dec 07, The Local)
Why does Sweden go so big on Lucia?
Quite how St. Lucy worked her way into Swedish tradition is unclear, but December 13th was the shortest day of the year under the Julian calendar, which Sweden followed until the 18th century.
It is traditionally held that a maiden dressed in white robes and wearing a crown of candles brought food to starving villagers on the shore of Lake Vänern. Lucia also has links to a German tradition of girls dressing as 'Christ children', handing out Christmas presents.
Traditionally, Lucia processions would be held in the home, with daughters dressing up and bringing coffee to their parents. Now, the practice is widespread in workplaces and schools, and newspapers frequently run Lucia competitions for readers.
Is this just something for the girls?
Even in these days of sexual equality, the girls have pretty much got Lucia wrapped up. Still, men are now allowed walk-on parts as Lucia's acolytes, known as 'stjärngossar' or 'star boys'. They also wear the long white robes, but instead of the crowns they wear white, pointy hats.
One of the highlights of the school year in this putatively liberal town is when the Swedish kids go around dressed as Lucia and the starboys singing songs. Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2008 4:17 PM