Over the years I’ve seen and read a fair bit about the Lucia Day celebrations in Sweden. Until today, however, I’ve never actually seen one in the flesh. It was a real draw-card for me today as I headed to the “Julmarknad” (“Christmas Market”) held at Sydney’s Lutheran Church in Goulburn Street.
Despite the name and decorations, the Martin-Luther-Kirche in Sydney is not only a German Church, but also a Swedish Church. Regular church services in Swedish are held there. There’s also the nearby Café Svensson which has coffee and film nights, and which is where I have been learning Swedish. As well as catering to the Swedish expatriate and immigrant population, the Swedish Church in Sydney also has a strong outreach program to Swedish travellers.
Once a year they also host a Christmas Market where you can buy Swedish food, including sweets, as well as clothing, decorations, and many of the other kinds of things you might want/need to celebrate Christmas in the Swedish way whilst living in Sydney. I bought a lovely light blanket decorated with elk/alg which I thought would be great for my lounge-room. The friends who I went with – one of them half-Swedish, the other two being “Swedophiles” – also sampled Julmust (a popular Christmas drink in Sydney), and I had korv med bröd (the Swedish equivalent to a hot-dog). It was a really fun thing to do, though of course the highlight was the Lucia Day celebration.
The actual “proper” celebration will be held in Sydney, and around the world on December 13. Today’s was a smaller “30 minute version” of the bigger celebration which is held each year. I didn’t know this until I consulted Wikipedia, but apparently “Saint Lucy is one of the few saints celebrated by members of the Lutheran Church among the Scandinavian peoples, who take part in Saint Lucy’s Day celebrations that retain many elements of Germanic paganism.”
Wikipedia goes on to say…
Saint Lucy is one of seven women, aside from the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. Hagiography tells us that Lucy was a Christian martyr during the Diocletian persecution. She consecrated her virginity to God through pious works refused to marry a pagan betrothed, and had her wedding dowry distributed to the poor. Her betrothed pagan groom denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Syracuse, Sicily. Miraculously unable to move her or burn her, the guards took out her eyes with a fork. In another version, Lucy’s betrothed admired her eyes, so she tore them out and gave them to him, saying, “Now let me live to God”.
As the name Lucia means “light”, the celebrations of her day have both a metaphorical – Christ bringing light to the world – as well as a literal interpretation. The young woman who plays the role of Lucia in these celebrations is decorated with a “crown of candles”.
It was lovely to watch the celebration today, and in particular to see the really young children brought into the activities. There was a little girl near us who also had a “crown of candles”, though we noted hers was battery-powered, thankfully.