Monday, December 14, 2009

On Santa Lucia

I'm a day late. Saint Lucy's day was yesterday. On the 13th of December each year, this day is celebrated - mainly in Italy and in Scandinavia. The fact that this day is celebrated in Scandinavia is strange, actually. If  religious at all, most Scandinavians are Lutherans. We don't really do saints. But Lucy/Lucia - an Italian martyr who lived in the late third and early fourth centuries - is for some reason one of the few we commemorate. I don't think many Norwegians (I can't speak for the Swedes and Danes) know specifically why we celebrate Saint Lucy's day (I had to google it, and I'm not all that much wiser - it had to do with torture and religion, and frankly, I get enough of both in my thesis...). Regardless of this, however, we have very specific traditions in connection with December 13th.

There are processions with young girls in white gowns, holding candles and singing "Santa Lucia" (the Neapolitan song with Norwegian lyrics). There is a special type of pastry baked and served on this day only (lussekatt). Often, the processions are in schools, kindergartens, or they visit nursing homes or churches. Yesterday they even had one walking down Karl Johan, the main street here in Oslo (the street that a few nights earlier was absolutely packed with all the people waiting outside Obama's hotel hoping to catch a glimpse of him and Michelle).

I didn't celebrate Santa Lucia this year. I had an eventful weekend otherwise, and though I would have liked to make lussekatter it didn't fit into my schedule this time. Maybe next year I can make up for it. I did, however, think about Saint Lucy's day when we were planning The Burrow's Advent Calendar. Yesterday's entry was my tribute to the Scandinavian celebration of Saint Lucy's day. One day late, I present the drabble also here:

There are many rules when participating in the traditional Santa Lucia procession:

Walk straight, one step at the time, following the beat of the choir singing "Santa Lucia."
Keep your head up, don't look down, but don't step on the long, white gown you are wearing.
Hold your candle straight, and make sure it doesn't drip on the floor or set something on fire.
Look serene.
Most important of all: don't cast envious glances at the queen of the procession, who is wearing the crown of lights, while you are merely wearing a silver garland tied around your head.

To see the image accompanying this drabble, please visit There you can find a drabble a day counting down to Christmas Eve.


Tundiel said...

I never knew December 13th was a saint's day. Did you know that Ellie was in fact due on the 13th December, but running true to her soon to be form, she caused havoc and arrived eight days late. *snort*

We don't really celebrate any saint days here, except for, of course, St. David's on March 1st. Then we dress in our lovely (not) costumes and wave daffoldils and leeks around (which reminds me, I still need to write that daffodil and leek love story...hmmm)

A Good Blog Is Hard to Find said...

My daughter, in her 2nd grade class last year, participated in Christmas Around the World. Her FAVORITE country was Norway...because of the dresses the girls wore for Santa Lucia's day!

Mystery Writing is Murder

M.J. Nicholls said...

What curious cultural practices.

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