Monday, December 13, 2010

Swedish Christmas Traditions II

Saint Lucy
Early in the morning on December 13th, a woman dressed in white and with a crown of candles on her head, can be seen in the front of a procession of white dressed female attendants, "star boys" and brownies. The front woman is called Lucia and she represents a Sicilian martyr and saint that died under emperor Diocletianus persecutions. Legends claim that before her death, the virgin ripped her own eyes out and sent them to her betrothed. The mother of God then provided her with a new set of eyes that were even more beautiful.

In English, this feast goes by the name "Saint Lucy's Day" or "Feast of St. Lucy." Kindergardens, schools , churches and choires arrange these processions which parents are attending. Different Lucias are voted for in cities around the country, usually based on their looks and voice, similar to beauty contests.

A recurring problem during Lucia celebrations in Sweden seem to be fainting. Some claim that the cause of fainting is that the candles in the hair "eats up" the oxygen in your brain. This, however, is a myth. The explanation behind the phenomenon is simply low blood pressure from heat, psychological pressure and from standing up for a long time. So if you plan to delight your neighborhood by spreading the light of Lucia, make sure to drink lots of water and sit down with your head between your knees if the dizziness creeps upon you!

The initial song that the Lucia procession sings as they enter the room is "Sankta Lucia", which is also sung as they exit. Here's a translation in English:

Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent,
Now hear its gentle wings,
In every room so hushed,
Whispering like wings.
Look, at our threshold stands,
White-clad with light in her hair,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon,
From earth's valleys.
So she speaks
Wonderful words to us:
A new day will rise again
From the rosy sky…
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

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