Lucia, Lucia Celebration, Lucia Crown

In Sweden, that is why there’s joy and frivolity each 13 December. It is Luciafest — the Festival of Lights — which marks the unofficial start of the Christmas season. Skunk Poop

Luciafest — also called’St Lucia Day’ or, simply,’Lucia’ — did not have its roots in the Christian tradition, but like several exceptional Christian festivals in Europe, it had been used to’meld’ their religious message to the lore of a revered pagan legend with the goal of increasing its own recognition. Easter, for instance, arose from the Germanic fertility rituals of every year’s new Spring season — ergo, the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs — as well as their calendaric proximity to the Resurrection. Christian missionaries were quite clever at using this tactic with the aim of assimilating their religion to regional cultures and, as we see now, the results were best. In this example, nobody recalls pagan rights of Spring ; Easter has completely overtaken the event.

Rays of light pierced the darkness as precursors of hope, finally showing a longship, laden with foodstuffs and directed with a blond maiden in a flowing white dress.

Thus, this Maiden of Mercy became emblematic for the slow lengthening of daylight that followed every successive new dawn.

Coincidentally, a similar legend has been told in the Sicilian city of Syracuse. There, during the sixth century, forlorn locals gathered in their own palace for prayers to St Lucia — a nun who had been martyred in 304 AD and whose very name meant’mild’ — when a miracle happened in the kind of a boat entering their harbor, carrying a cargo of food.

Meanwhile, back in Sweden, the western province of Halland watched this fable take iconic life in a convention of young women in white robes who traversed the ice and snow, torches in hand, carrying baked products and hot greetings to homesteads through the countryside throughout the darkness of every 13 December. Other states took note and embraced the practice. Finally, these women became habituated with crowns of lingonberry candles and leaves to further symbolize the arrival of light.

Christianity first came to Sweden during the last throes of the Viking age in the eleventh century. As generations passed, the saintly image of Lucia became intertwined to the Swedish fable and farther ebbed in their wintry custom. The regional churches had noticed the legend’s fame and welcomed its subject of giving which underscored the Lucia celebration. They ultimately incorporated it in their yearly rota, which subsequently increased their recognition and approval by more and more local souls. Finally, in 1927, Luciafest was declared at the royal halls of Stockholm and a national heritage was cemented.

Each house could have its own Lucia party, but the event’s highlight is when every village and town neighborhood’elects’ a Lucia, who then leads her procession into a frequent company, accompanied by song and a buffet of pastries. These include the conventional’lussekatter’ — saffron-flavored buns shaped like curled-up cats, with raisins for eyes — and pepparkakor (ginger snaps) that are accompanied by refreshments like’gloegg’ — a hot spiced wine — or java.

Obviously, Luciafest stays as a uniquely Swedish national holiday. The household celebration occurs before sunrise, the civic galas and church agencies occupy the abbreviated daylight hours, and for people who wish to get the most out of the event, the’Lucia wake’ takes the maximum party-hardy of spirits well to the extended Swedish night.

It is quite possible that, during the latter portion of the program, another Swedish soul may appear. This is a high-octane grain- or potato-based libation that may well and truly addle a brain, even to the point where vestiges of additional pagan-era Lucia apparitions might be conjured. As late as the Middle Ages, a widespread belief was that Lucia Night hosted the ravages of ghosts and goblins, with animals becoming enchanted in order to talk to them.

In those cases, given enough aquavit, what the church tooketh off, the soul broughteth back.


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