Tuesday was St. Lucia’s Day in Sweden and other Nordic countries.
December 13 is the day to commemorate Lucia, a martyred Catholic saint. In a traditional Swedish celebration known as a luciatåg, a girl wearing a white dress and a crown of candles leads a procession of maidens.
Many processions also include star boys, and those performed by young children often feature gingerbread men and Santas as additional characters.
The celebrations revolve around singing. Sweden followed the Julian calendar until 1700, and December 13 was the shortest, darkest day of the year. The main song is about St. Lucia bringing light to the darkness.
People eat gingerbread and drink mulled wine, but my favorite food associated with the day is lussekatter, saffron buns that are eaten throughout Advent but particularly on this day.
Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice by weight, quickly became one of my favorite baking flavors when I moved here. I didn’t even really know what it was in the States.
Lucia is a winter tradition I hadn’t experienced yet, because I was working in Stockholm at this time last year and two years ago I hadn’t quite arrived for my first visit.
We spent the morning with a group of elementary school children from the school where Amanda’s mom works. They performed a procession in a church next to their school, about 20 minutes south of our town.
The parents loved every second of it.