A Very Swedish Christmas – part 2
Ho ho ho! A very Swedish Christmas part 1
By December 13 it is time for one of my favourite dates on the Swedish calendar, St Lucia’s Day.
This is the day appointed for Lucia, the Italian patron saint of light, to arrive at dawn and spread some Mediterranean cheer into the deep darkness of the Nordic winter. Her arrival is to remind everyone that the warmer months are just around the corner.
In my former former office, as in many across Sweden, a traditional St Lucia ceremony/breakfast is held. It runs like this: The girl with the longest and blondest hair is proclaimed Lucia for the day and puts on a long white dress with a red ribbon tied around her waist. She also wears a crown made of evergreen leaves, red berries and candles and she holds another candle in her hand. Lucia leads a procession of unfortunate dark-haired girls, who occupy the far less glamorous ceremonial role of back-up singers to the resident alpha blonde.
The procession makes merry, singing traditional songs including, somewhat predictably, Sancta Lucia. Then everybody sings. Then everyone cries. Then everyone makes merry with a meal of ginger biscuits, special Lucia buns and strong, hot coffee.
During my first Lucia ceremony, I spent most of the time eyeing off the biscuits and coffee and pondering questions such as “Who is Lucia?” and “Why are her buns so tasty?” as well as “Hey, why do the blonde chicks always get to play the role of a presumably dark-haired Italian?”
So after the tissues have been handed out and the tears have dried, I ask my Swedish friends Sven, Gustav, Sven and Sven, if they know the source of Lucia’s rituals and her inherent hairiest tendencies. The Svens and Gustav come back blank. Under the watchful eye of the office blonde, no one seems willing to talk – though I do find out that it is the saffron that makes her buns so tasty.
What’s your favourite Xmas treat?
[Photos courtesy of http://www.imagebank.sweden.se]