Thursday, December 13, 2012

December Festivities | Santa Lucia, ljusklara hägring let’s celebrate Luciadag and Lussinatt

Top: Photo by Claudia Grunder
Bottom: Saffron buns, glögg, from Valarie Budayr’s “A Santa Lucia Festival” for Rhythm of the Home
Swedish: Santa Lucia, ljusklara hägring = Saint Lucy, bright mirage
Danish: Luciadag = Day of Lucia
Norwegian: Lussinatt = Lucia Night

St. Lucia was born in Syracuse. Her parents were noble, wealthy and Christian. When still a young girl, Lucia dedicated her virginity to Christ; hence, as a teen she did not want to marry a pagan suitor – she meant every word of her vow. By that time Lucia’s Daddy was long gone, having died when she was an infant, and Lucia’s Mummy was quite unwell having developed a hemorrhage (cause unknown; we are talking late 200s C.E. here). One would imagine a marriage would be economically welcome. Still, Lucia being devoted persuaded her Mummy to pray at the tomb of St. Agatha for a cure instead. It worked. Lucia shared the nature of her vow and a desire to give her wealth to the poor. Mummy was so happy with the cure that she agreed. The pagan suitor was enraged. Since these were the times when the Christians were really out of favor in the Roman Empire, the pagan suitor, feeling rejected and obviously revengeful – because, honestly, what was this going to get him other than prove he was utterly parochial, but I judge with a modern mind, and also digress – accused Lucia of being a Christian in front of a judge. Lucia was not caving in. She stuck to her faith. The judge, a clever man… ordered her to a brothel. Crazy, ha? Somehow the guards could not move her to the house
of sin; the burning to death also did not work; supposedly her eyes were removed – or she did it herself at the outset – bit unclear here; with a thrust of a sword to her throat she met her demise in 304. The day of Lucia’s martyrdom was December 13th – the shortest day of the year according to the Julian calendar. Winter solstice?! Pagan?! Not anymore, Gregorian calendar moved that to December 21st. Still, Lucia means light and Santa Lucia Day is a celebration of days becoming longer. More light, get it? 

Roughly, what we have now is Swedish girls dressing in white and holding candles, one wearing candelabra as a crown, while handing out candy, cookies, cakes, coffee and glögg, Swedish boys dressing up as stjärngossar, in hats shaped like cones and decorated with stars, or as gingerbread men, Finns, Norwegians  and Danes embracing what they need from the Swedish way, the latter "to bring light in a time of darkness” after World War II and centering on Christianity rather than being secular, for the populace of Caribbean island called Santa Lucia December 13th
being a day of National Festival of Lights and Renewal, some Italians making the day all about gifts from Santa Lucia where children are being rewarded for being good or bad by getting gifts or coals, respectively, and having to respect Lucia with coffee, her donkey with a carrot and Lucia’s escort Castaldo, with wine even though they are advised to never watch Santa Lucia doing her delivery, other Italians eat small biscotti shaped like eyes, light bonfires and candles, Sicilians do not eat anything made with wheat flour and switch to cuccia Venetians are all about fried cheese, Swiss have Santa Lucia hand-in-hand with Father Christmas giving gifts to girls and boys, Maltese also celebrate Republic Day. Free for all? Bring on the light!
“Santa Lucia’s Day in Second Life” video by Voff Uggla of “Living in the Virtual World Second Life”
“Santa Lucia” sang by Malena Malena Ernman and Charles Castronovo – thanks Voff Uggla

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