Lucia: Celebrating the Queen of Light in Sweden
If you are a Swedish woman with a husband and a family, on the morning on the 13thof December you will rise earlier than usual, leave the bedroom and quietly
close the door. You’ll prepare a tray with candles, ginger bread, funny shaped saffron buns with raisins (lussebullar), and make a big pot of coffee. Then you’ll quietly wake your children and dress them and yourself in white gowns. You’ll put cardboard cone hats with golden stars on the boys’ heads, strings of tinsel around the girls’ hair, and give a lighted candle to each kid, except one of your daughters on whose head you’ll put a wreath of lingonberry brush with half a dozen lighted candles. (If you don’t have a daughter, you’ll put the wreath with candles on your own head.)
Now you’re ready: Quietly open the door to the bedroom where your husband pretends to be asleep (he is of course awake already because you weren’t really that quiet). Singing the hymn about Saint Lucia, you will all march in, led by the girl with the candle wreath and the coffee tray (if she’s too small, you carry the tray yourself, last in the procession).
Your husband will (pretend to) wake up and sit up in bed, looking happy and pleasantly surprised (and you wish that he could look like that every morning). He’ll be munching coffee and buns and cookies while you finish the hymn, and the boys start singing the ballad about Saint Stephen, who was king Herod’s stable boy (and sadly enough was executed because he saw the star – but that’s not mentioned in the ballad).
That’s it. You’ve just celebrated Sankta Lucia, ljusdrottningen (“Saint Lucia, the Queen of Light”).
Now you can carry on almost as every other morning, going to work, school and daycare. At the daycare, the kids will perform the same ritual for their parents, except that everyone – boys and girls alike – want to be Lucia with electric candles in their hair. In school, your kids will prepare to repeat the same procedure for senior citizens at some nearby old people’s home. At work, another procession with a girl dressed as Lucia will arrive singing the same songs, and you’ll drink more coffee and eat more saffron buns and ginger bread, and you’ll probably also get a small glass of glögg, which is a spiced sweet wine served hot with raisins and almonds.
But it doesn’t end there. At the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, the Nobel Prize laureates have already been chocked by a choir of girls in white robes with candles, entering their bedroom in what seemed to be the middle of the night, singing and offering a breakfast of saffron buns, coffee, and hot sweet wine with gingerbread. After all the girls came a horde of photographers, and the whole occasion is reported in detail in the afternoon’s papers, with pictures.
In fact, you will meet Lucia processions almost everywhere. The town’s Lucia, elected by the readers of a local newspaper, will be crowned in the city square. A Lucia procession will occur at rush hour in every mall. And you don’t want to see a gingerbread cookie for another week.