Why Do We Celebrate Sankta Lucia?


by Lise Sveen

December 13th is the feast day of Santa Lucia, commemorating Lucia of Syracuse. She was martyred in 304 by Diocletian. Lucia and her mother were nobles. Lucia was engaged to be married to a pagan. Her mother had had a long and serious illness, and Lucia prayed at the tomb of the martyr Agatha. Her mother recovered and Lucia gave her dowry to the poor. Her suitor denounced her to the local prefect. When Lucia refused to renounce Christianity, she was condemned to be burned. Lucia, whose name can mean “light” or “lucid,” is the patron saint of the blind.

In Sweden the feast day coincided with the winter solstice before the calendar was reformed, so Lucia eve was the longest night of the year. It was associated with revels and fantastic spooky things like farm animals talking in the dark. The custom of processions featuring young women as Lucia became popular after a Stockholm newspaper decided to crown a Lucia queen in 1927.

Now on Sankta Lucia day the eldest daughter wakes before dawn, prepares coffee, cookies, and sweet Lucia buns, and serves her parents in bed, with the help of her siblings. She wears a white robe, with a red sash symbolizing martyrdom, and a crown of candles. As with Advent, candles signify light overcoming darkness.

At Augustana we celebrate Sankta Lucia with music, including the well-known Lucia song (based on a Neapolitan boat song), with a procession of star boys and younger girls, and Lucia and her court, and with an amazing coffee hour spread. On this day we lift up our young people, reflect on the Swedish roots of our congregation, and pray for the safety of Christians threatened because of their beliefs.

We invite the children of the congregation to join in the festivities following the 10:45am service on Sunday, December 9th. To learn the songs and practice some short readings, we’re going to have rehearsals at 9:30am on these Sundays: November 25th, December 2nd, Dec. 9th . All children are welcome!

Please contact Lise Sveen for more information: lise@uchicago.edu or 773-643-7976.

We are looking for adult volunteers to help with the Lucia pageant, especially with clean-up after coffee hour.