Nordic Christmas: Santa Lucia

This post is part of our series exploring Nordic Christmas traditions. To see the entire collection, visit the Nordic Christmas home page.

While the story of Santa Lucia originates in Italy, outside of Italy it is primarily those of the north who celebrate. Scholars speculate that the story of a woman bringing light and hope in the darkness was especially meaningful to those for whom the winter is especially dark. Thus the martyrdom of Saint Lucy on December 13th makes a perfect addition to a Nordic Advent.

According to tradition, St. Lucy brought food and supplies to Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs. In order to carry as much as possible, she needed both hands free. She wore a candles attached to a wreath on her head to illuminate her way. 

Modern celebrations of St. Lucy include a feast, which represents the food Lucia delivered to the early Christians, and a procession. Candles, obviously, play a big role in the celebrations. Not only did St. Lucy wear a crown of candles to light her way, but her name literally means light. Many celebrations feature one young woman in a white robe who will lead a procession while wearing a candle wreath. School children often craft paper candle wreaths to wear. 

I found this day to be an important one for discussing with my children the importance of helping those in need, and being a light in the darkness. We should follow our Christian imperative to love one another. We recommit ourselves to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who need comfort. Perhaps we didn’t have a big procession and feast, but hopefully we have imprinted these lessons in our hearts.

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