St. Lucia was a young Italian girl martyred for her faith. She lived in Sicily during the 4th century which was a time of paganism. Lucia committed her life to Christ and ministered to persecuted Christians and the poor. She brought food and hope in the darkness of night, using candles to light her way. It is this mission that established Saint Lucia as a symbol of light and hope.
Her story was most likely carried to Scandinavian countries by missionaries. In Sweden, legend has it that Saint Lucia appeared by candlelight bringing food to the hungry during a time of famine. December 13th is the celebration of "Lucia Day" and it ushers in the Christmas season. Early in the morning on Lucia Day, the oldest daughter, wearing a long white gown tied with a red sash and an evergreen wreath with lighted candles crowning her head, carries a tray of coffee and lussekatter (old-fashioned saffron buns) to her parent's room. She is followed by her younger sisters or "maidens" dressed in white gowns with tinsel halos in their hair, and brothers, or "star boys" dressed in cone-shaped hats decorated with stars. This custom is also observed in hospitals and throughout the community with a Lucia accompanied by maidens, star boys and tomtan (elves) singing Christmas songs as a reminder of the nearness of Christmas during the darkness of winter.
The story of Saint Lucia seems to reflect the real message of Christmas. Jesus said, "I am the Light of the World, whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life."
It's become a Christmas tradition for us to attend the Lucia Festival at Ray's cousin Wendy's church. Her daughter Heather Marie has been doing Swedish Folk Dancing at Barnklubben Elsa Rix (the oldest Swedish American Children's Club) for years, and each year at this time they put on the St. Lucia pageant. Last year Heather played the part of Lucia. This year she participated with many of the other past Lucias and she opened the program by reading the Lucia Legend.
Mia seems very interested in taking the Swedish dance lessons, so we're hoping that soon she will be participating in this sweet tradition too (and we're hoping to talk Jayden into it too, so he can be one of the little 'star boys'):
Heather Marie teaching Mia "The Shoemaker" dance:
Heather's costume is the traditional dress that belonged to Ray's grandmother, and it was handed down to his mother, and now Heather uses it, and hopefully, one day Mia will use it too. The original blouse was threadbare, so Ray's cousin Wendy and her sister Heidi made the pattern for a new one. I think they did a wonderful job, paying attention to every detail such as the smocking on the sleeves.
Here are all the children that belong to the Swedish club dressed in their own traditional costumes:
I think it would be so cute to see both Mia and Jayden standing up there with them one day. (Although I'm not going to count on Jayden because this year he wanted to take Irish Step Dancing lessons at his school until all the boys made fun of him! So I don't think he wants to go through that again.)
In addition to traditional folk dancing, songs, sandwiches, cakes, cookies, coffee and Swedish wares for sale, the club also had a few raffles. We all chipped in to buy lots and lots of raffle tickets for the "Lucia Doll". And guess who won?!