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For Swedes, December is a special month. In schools and homes, girls compete to become St. Lucia for the day and to lead the candlelit procession on a dark winter morning. At SWPS University, students of Scandinavian Studies have organized St. Lucia celebrations since 2006. This year, SWPS University and the Embassy of Sweden, would like to cordially invite everyone to attend St. Lucia celebrations at the Praga Koneser Center, where the audience will be able to enjoy performances by the Harmony Choir from Borås in Sweden, SWPS University Choir and students of the Department of Scandinavian Studies at SWPS University.

8 December 2018
17.00
Warsaw
Free admission

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.

SWPS University Choir

SWPS University Choir was established in 2001. Since then, it has been regularly performing in Poland and abroad. The Choir’s repertoire includes close to 150 musical pieces of different musical styles and genres. The Choir sings in a variety of languages, including Polish, English, French, German, Swedish, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Belorussian, Latin and the Old Church Slavonic language.

Date and Location 

Saturday, December 8, 2018, 17.00

Praga Konser Center, Plac Konesera 8 (shopping center, entrance from Białostocka Street), Warsaw

Performers:

  • Harmony Choir from Borås in Sweden
  • SWPS University Choir
  • Students of the Department of Scandinavian Studies at SWPS University.
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