Festival of Sankta Lucia at Augustana

This year, on Sunday December 11th, Augustana celebrates the Festival of Sankta Lucia, commemorating Lucia of Syracuse. Augustana was founded as a mission of the Swedish Lutheran church, for the Swedish immigrants who relocated in Hyde Park, refugees from poverty who worked as maids and laborers.

At Augustana this year, we celebrate Sankta Lucia with music, including the well-known Lucia song (based on a Neapolitan boat song), readings and a festive reception spread after worship. In the narthex, there is a sign up sheet and everyone is encouraged to bring savory dishes or desserts. On this day we reflect on the Swedish roots of our congregation and pray for the safety of Christians threatened because of their beliefs.

Lucia of Syracuse was martyred in 304 by the Roman emperor Diocletian.  She and her mother were nobles and she 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.