|Such beauty even in an outburned candle from the lantern on the front doorstep!|
So now we are approaching the fourth advent sunday, the holy mother of God will come forth and be heard in the vaults of our churches. But first:
Sweden has it's mysterious traditions, just as other countries have.
The countryside was filled with myths and legends and folktales and some became a part of the christian inheritage. This is Lucia, more or less. This tradition is a mixture of pagan rituals, folklore and an italian saint spreading light in the name of Jesus.
We noticed Lucia in the 13th century and started to celebrate a hundred years later. We used the Julian calender then and the 13th of december was the longest night, so dark forces were in motion and needed be battled. The pagan tradition contained several light rituals to persuade the forces of light to return, I know at least one druid who could tell more!!
Since that night was dangerous with evil spirits of the dead and demons of all sorts rampaging the landscape, everybody stayed up for safety and so the prechristian traditions are for certain plenty and some more perilous and outrageous than others. The same thinking can be found around midsummer in lots of countries.
The Luciatradition as it came to be handled in Sweden, fitted very well in to the line of thinking that darkness must be warded off and the light of Christ was introduced through already established customs and beliefs!! So the rituals slowly transformed into traditions of sacred nature, with influences from the southern catholic church. After we became lutherans,the tradition transformed again. The Saints where not to be worshipped but held in respect. But Lucia stayed on developping in both shape and performance and moved indoors of the greater mansions.
When we changed calender the dates for midwinter altered but the 13th stayed on for Lucia.
Christmas preparations had to be finished by the 13th, the slaughter and such. The wardingoff traditions became the younger ones chance to have a laugh, in the 18th century young boys got out in the darkness, singing and begging and probably making a lot of scary noise around the farmhouses. In recent days, the need to stay awake all night was appealing to the swedish teenagers, so the dancefloors and bars where filled to the brim that night, making the early morning singing in schools and churches a somewhat hazardous quest.....
In around 1893 the tradition from mansions and university of singing girls in white robes, became commonly celebrated in Skansen, the park in Stockholm I told you about in my Stockholm post, some decades later a big newspaper made up a competition for young, pretty and singing girls to become Lucia, with her maidens. One, particularly pretty girl with a good voice would be chosen the Lucia of Sweden for that year. A weekly magazine picked up the challenge and made it more of a beautycontest. The habit spread and today we choose Lucia in every school, daycarecenter, kindergarten and in every community.
In church we try to keep the tradition somewhat sacred. The songs are about heavenly light, waiting for the holy child, it's about St Stephen, the stable boy who saw the star first, a popular figure for the boys, white robes, a white pointy hat and a star in hand and so on. Lucia, we are told, many different legends around this girl, was a young girl with a passion for helping the poor in the name of Jesus.It's also said that she made a secret vow of chastity and was bethrowed without her mother knowing and when it got out they had her reported to the emperor Diocletan. Her husband to be treathened her and she was imprisoned. She wouldn't yield so he had her eventually burned. Or somehow tortured and killed. Another legend states that she tore her eyes out and send them to him. On older paintings you see her with a tray or plate, containing her eyes!!
Yes, and in the swedish tradition, that tray is filled with coffee, Lussekatter and Gingerbread.....
As a child, I dressed up for Lucia with the other children ( never got that leading part though, always maiden) and walked the alleys and doorsteps of our neighbours, singing Lucia and Christmas songs. We could be 8-10 children. In school we did the same, I got no solos and no lightcrown, I got the reading of poems!
Later on, in the churchchoir, we were enough girls and boys below our twenties, so we did a gigantic Luciaprocession every year.
Confused? Look here, first the angellike voices of Norrlandskörens Lucia, then a Chaotic and sweet Lucia in Kindergarten and finally - tadah! Lucia, age 87, and her maides in the oldfolks home a couple of days ago in our county!!
In Kindergarten, Lucia is quite a different story, with gnomes, starboys and gingerbreadmen and whatnot. Every song is offkey and sung in various versions simultaneously but we still cheer and cry.
When Lucia has marched in and out some tenthousand schools, churches, malls, squares, markets, hospitals, factories, it's time to buy the Christmas tree, bake the cakes and prepare for Christmas de luxe. As you can imagine, the Lucia of today has very little to do with the Italian Saint. Since the legends differ among themselves, it's not easy to know head or tale. But a saint she is and Lucia will stay on in Sweden!!!
Next post will share some swedish Christmas songs and hymns , and some traditions. Blessings!!!!