Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy St. Lucia Day!

Traditional Lucia Day song, sung by New Zealand talent Hayley Westenra

Google Translate informs me that in Swedish it's said:

Glad Saint Lucia

Though I have a feeling this isn't quite correct.

I am not Swedish, so I generally don't observe the tradition of St. Lucia's Day. My flatmate, however, is, and she does. Thus this morning I received a lovely wake-up of my flatmate entering my bedroom wearing a white dress with a red sash, carrying a lit candle and a platter with a cup of tea and a tradition saffron bun for breakfast. I have to say, in the dim grey light of a cloudy barely dawn, the warm golden glow of the candle was something to behold.

What a lovely wake-up that was.

For those who are not one of or descendant from the Scandinavian countries where St. Lucia's Day is observed (according the the online Encyclopaedia Britannica those would be Sweden, Norway and the Swedish-speaking regions of Finland), I have to tell you, it's one of those Christian holidays with a history that goes further back than Christianity.

The day is named for a very early Christian martyr, killed in 304 AD by the Romans. It is said she carried food to persecuted Christians in Rome. Upon her head she wore a crown of candles so that she would have light, and still two hands free for carrying food to those in need.

In Scandinavian tradition it is noted that in Värmland, Sweden, a maiden dressed in white, wearing a crown of candles, brought food to starving villagers in a village on the shores of Lake Vänern.

It is celebrated, generally, by a festival which involves an elected St. Lucia, wearing a crown of candles, who leads a choral procession of boys and girls dressed in white. They sing traditional Swedish Christmas songs. Afterwards there is drinking, dancing and singing around the Christmas Tree. It is the day that generally begins the Christmas festivities.

It happens to fall on December 13th, which, according to the old Julian Calendar, was the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, and is known as the Festival of Lights. It was celebrated long before the addition of Christ in to festivities. Light (candles and bonfires) was often a part of these traditions as it was the very beginning of the solar year - the rebirth of the sun.

According to one source, the Scandinavian Goddess Lucina (Goddess of Light) was replaced by the Roman Saint Lucy (Patron Saint of Light) on this day.

Whatever the tradition, it's a glorious day indeed, and a lovely tradition to be woken by.

So whether your Christian, or Pagan, or don't particularly care, Happy St. Lucia Day!

In writing news, I was very good about my French Friday, and spent all day on French, which means I really did writing nothing. I must get back to it.

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