Amidst all the holiday celebrations this month, St. Lucia’s Day is a lesser known part of the various Christmas celebrations that are held across the globe. A highlight of the Scandinavian Christmas festivities, December 13th marks the date that countries like Sweden and Norway recognize the 4th century martyring of a young woman – St. Lucia – for her Christian beliefs.
On this day, a female family member, often the eldest daughter, is designated to act the role of St. Lucia by dressing in a white dress with a red sash around her waist and a crown of candles on her head (the crown often contains branches of the native fruit, Lingonberry, as well). The candles represent the idea of light overcoming darkness and the anticipation of the impending sunlight, as the 13th is often the longest night of the year.
Common customs for St. Lucia’s Day also include candlelight processions, the serving of coffee and breakfast pastries called Lussekatter, singing the traditional St. Lucia hymn, and throwing parties (particularly popular at local schools). Although St. Lucia’s Day is not an official holiday in Sweden, most natives would agree that the Christmas celebrations would not be complete without incorporating these traditions that go back hundreds of years in Scandinavia.