Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 13: Sweden, St Lucia

It’s Day 13 of our Advent Calendar and today we are headed to Sweden, where today is the Feast of Saint Lucia. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!



In Sweden, and other neighbouring Nordic countries, December 13th is the Feast of Saint Lucia, or Sankta Lucia, as she is called in Swedish. Saint Lucia is celebrated as a bringer of light. According to one story, Saint Lucia brought food and supplies to the Christians hiding in catacombs, and to keep her hands free to carry more supplies, she wore candles on a wreath head-piece to light her way. Thus, during the darkest days of the year, the Swedes choose a Saint Lucia of their own, usually a young teenage girl, who will dress in white, with a red sash, and wear a wreath with candles on her head. These Saint Lucias will be accompanied by other young girls and boys, also dressed in white, carrying candles and singing songs. Together they will visit schools, public offices, churches, retirement homes and there is often a public procession as well. At the Globen in Stockholm there is a large Saint Lucia procession every year – so large that it has even made it to the Guinness Book of World Records with over 1,200 participants from Stockholm’s schools.

Part of the celebrations are also the Lussekatter, sweet buns made with saffron and cardamom, traditionally baked specifically for the Feast of Saint Lucia. Nowadays, however, few can wait until halfway-through December to sample these treats and thus they are available in cafes and shops from early November onwards.

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