Today in Sweden is Lucia Day. What started in the 3rd century with St. Lucy bringing food to Christians hiding in catacombs has turned into a national Swedish holiday marked by beautiful songs and saffran buns called lussekatter. It’s all about the light, really. In the dark catacombs, Lucy lit the way by wearing a candle-lit wreath; today, Lucia Day is about bringing light to the darkness of the north this time of year.
Down here in Austin, Texas, there may not be as much of a need for the light – nor warmth, for that matter (other than during our 3-day cold front last week; that’ll probably be the start and finish of the winter season). Nonetheless, the Austin chapter of Swedish women’s group SWEA brought the light and the songs to Austin once again this year, on Sunday afternoon in Gethsemane Lutheran Church.
We started the afternoon with a Christmas market in the church’s gym. There was dancing around a Christmas tree and homemade Swedish pastries and candy. I managed the raffle table full of prizes for a few lucky winners.
When it got dark, everyone made their way into the church for the Lucia procession. Dressed in long white dresses and white-socked feet, about 15 of us in the choir filed into the church singing Santa Lucia. We then sang around 8 songs in front of our audience before filing out again, each of us clutching a single candle.
My voice is nothing to be proud of, so I can only hope my fellow Lucia tärnors’ voices balanced mine out. But I do love to sing, and being a part of this tradition over the last two years has been a wonderful experience. I feel like I’ve finally got a good handle on the words to these traditional Swedish songs, too – after lots of practice in the car on my commute each day. Now I’ll hang up my Lucia crown and retire this rusty voice until next year… or at least until the next round of Christmas caroling ensues.