Yesterday was Lucia day here in Sweden, the holiday where we celebrate St. Lucia and the light in the darkness this time of year.
Two things fascinate me about this holiday:
1. The major fire hazard
2. How does the Lucia get all that wax out of her hair?
Well, the answer to number one is that there is always somebody nearby with a bucket of water (this was my job last year). And yesterday, I found out the answer to number two when I talked to the girl who was Lucia at a concert I went to. She kindly allowed me to take a picture of the wax in her hair (most of which had already fallen out), and I was able to touch some and found that in fact, it did crumble and come out right away. I always figured the Lucia went to the hairdresser to cut everything off on December 14, but I am glad to know now that the wax does come out.
Rachel, from the UK, discusses her hatred of saffron buns and Lucia, why you can’t name your kid Ikea here, and lots of talk about stabbing!
All on this week’s podcast episode of “Life in the Land of the Ice and Snow.” Hope you enjoy it!
December 13, St. Lucia day
Today begins early in the morning when it’s still dark. A girl dresses up as a dead Italian saint with fire on her head followed by “tärnor” (like Lucia maidens – no fire on head) and “stjärngossar (star boys who wear white pointy hats, I have no idea why) singing Christmas songs.
It’s a celebration of light in the darkness of winter. Young children wear electric candles on their head, but above age 12, they wear real candles. Yes, the wax drips down as the ceremony usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour. They have a light covering on their hair, but most Lucias have long hair and it still falls into the bottom parts.
The outfit Lucia wears is for an Italian saint who brought food in secret tunnels to persecuted Christians. She wore candles on her head to see in the tunnel. The red sash represents blood, as she was sentenced to death and they tried to stab her (apparently didn’t work). They also tried to set her on fire, which is why everyone carries candles (also didn’t work). These days the candles mostly represent the light she brings.
One of my sons had three Lucia performances over the weekend and has two more today. My husband had the job of being class parent for one of the concerts, which means he had to stand to the side during the performance with a bucket of water in case anyone caught fire.
So much more exciting than just being a chaperone at a school dance, I think.
Today is the celebration of St. Lucia in Sweden. We celebrate by lighting candles on our children’s’ heads while demanding they sing and bring us breakfast.
Or a nicer way to put it is – It’s a celebration of light in the darkness. Many children dress in white robes with a ring of candles around their head (usually fake) or a pointed star hat and bring their parents saffron buns for breakfast. I haven’t trained my children to do this yet as I don’t trust them not to spill my coffee, but maybe we need to start practicing for next year.
The main thing that happens at Lucia time is that all of the children also dress in their robes to sing Christmas songs at early morning church services and at their schools. This means, if you have any business dealings with Sweden on December 13, you may not get much of an answer before 9am as all of the parents are watching these performances.
So if you see small people running around like ghosts today with their hair full of fire, don’t worry – it’s just a holiday. Sit back, have a saffron bun and enjoy the show.