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December is a time when the Swedish love of consensus is put to the test. Teenagers in schools, towns and cities vie for the coveted role of St. Lucia, who will lead the candlelit procession on December 13th. The same day, the magic of St. Lucia holiday will also come to SWPS University, thanks to the students of Scandinavian studies.

St. Lucia Day has been celebrated at our university since the 2006, when the Department of Scandinavian Studies was established. It is one of the most important and beautiful Swedish traditions. It is also a great opportunity for students, teachers, and university employees to meet and experience the spirit of Sweden.

Celebration

December
13 2017

Warsaw

St. Lucia Day Celebrations in Sweden

St. Lucia Day is one of the most important holidays in the Swedish calendar and Swedes treat it quite seriously. Celebrations begin in the morning, when children dressed in white gowns proceed to the parents’ bedroom singing and brining the traditional saffron flavored buns (lussekatter). St. Lucia processions take place throughout the day in schools, at universities, work places, shopping centers and obviously at the Royal Palace. St. Lucia, wearing a crown made of lit candles, leads the procession. She is followed by handmaidens, who dressed in long white gowns with red sashes wrapped around their waists, carry candles in their hands. The so called star boys are also dressed in white, wear tall cone hats on their heads, and carry sticks topped with stars. Everyone in the procession is singing the traditional “Sankta Lucia” song and seasonal carols. St. Lucia is a celebration of light that brightens  the darkness of the long winter nights.

History of St. Lucia Celebration

The reverence for St. Lucia stems from Syracuse in Italy. According to the legend, St. Lucia lived in the 4th century CE. She vowed chastity before God, therefore she broke her engagement with a pagan man, who exposed her as a Christian, in revenge. Some sources indicate that she was burnt at a stake on December 13th.

However, the Swedish celebration is also related to the pre-Christian tradition. According to the ancient calendar, December 13th was the winter solstice. Old folk tales claimed that during the longest night, evil forces roamed the earth, threatening people and live stock.

Interestingly, the St. Lucia celebrations, which we know today, began taking on the contemporary shape in the second half of the 18th century, when the tradition of making a straw St. Lucia dummy began.

Occasionally, someone would dress as St. Lucia and lead a procession going from house to house, asking for small treats. Years passed, the procession kept growing and St. Lucia became a young woman clad in white. The custom spread from the countryside to towns and cities, where it was also adopted by university students.

Fusion of Old and New

St. Lucia owes its contemporary image to Dagbladet, a Swedish daily newspaper. In 1928, the paper invited young women to participate in a competition for the role of St. Lucia to lead a procession in Stockholm. The idea was quickly picked up by other newspapers. Within few years, the St. Lucia pageant had become a well established custom all over the country, which still causes a lot of excitement every year. Although the local and national St. Lucia competitions organized by the media are not as significant as they used to be, they are still quite popular. School competitions, on the other hand, are treated very seriously, cause a lot of excitement, and the results are awaited with great anticipation.

Surprisingly, these competitive events take place in a society that highly values egalitarianism, equality and is not big on hierarchy in social interactions. A society where the main principle is not to stand out from the crowd. Therefore, St. Lucia sheds the light not only on the winter darkness, but also on an interesting aspect of social relations in Sweden.

lucja 2Photo. Paulina Rosińska

swieta lucja 2Photo. Paulina Rosińska

Date and Location 

December 13, 2017, 17.00

SWPS University in Warsaw, Chodakowska 19/31

Location: The St. Lucia procession will start in the main hall on the ground floor. The concert will take place in the Green Room (P20), where the traditional snacks will be served.

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