The 13th of December is the feast day of St. Lucia, the patron saint of light. In Sweden, St. Lucia Day is one of the most important celebrations of the Christmas season. On the morning of December 13th the eldest daughter of the household portrays St. Lucia, wearing a long white gown and a crown of evergreen and candles. She rises before dawn and awakens the family with coffee and freshly baked traditional saffron buns called “lussekatter.” Click here to learn more about St. Lucia and the Lucia Day celebrations in Sweden.
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In December of each year I look forward to the festivities surrounding the Lucia Fest pageant held in the Muhlenberg College Chapel in Allentown. Lucia Fest celebrates St. Lucia and other Swedish Christmas traditions. Every year a dedicated group of Muhlenberg faculty and staff and their children, joined by members of Vasa Lodge #735 (a local Scandinavian organization), come together in December to create this magical performance. Participants dress in traditional Swedish costumes and sing holiday songs as they share the traditions of Sweden. The 2012 pageant was the 33rd Lucia Fest celebrated at Muhlenberg. I’ve been part of Lucia Fest since its 1980 debut. In 2003 it was my daughter’s turn to play the part of Lucia, wearing a crown of lighted candles in the procession. Our family has very happy memories of that special event! This year I was delighted to see Ada (one of my Blue Church Art students) and her family in the Lucia Fest audience! Ada’s mom is from Finland, one of the Nordic countries where St. Lucia’s day is celebrated.
One of the props used in the pageant is a beautiful 15” tall Dala Horse. The Dala Horse is a carved and painted wooden statue of a horse, a traditional folk art that originated in the Swedish province of Dalarna. Each participant in Lucia Fest is given a souvenir Dala Horse ornament that has been hand-painted by some of the Lucia Ladies who generously give their time to organize the event. The tiny red wooden horses are ordered from a Scandinavian gift store in the midwest. The Lucia ladies come up with a new design each year and spend a convivial November Sunday afternoon together painting the little horses.
After the Lucia Fest performance the children who participated and their families gather for a holiday party at Muhlenberg’s nearby Hoffman House. We share a wonderful potluck meal, and a visit from Santa! The grandmother of two of our Lucia kids created a beautiful Dala Horse cake for this year’s party. The cake was truly a work of art, and delicious, too!
Tomtegubbar (elves), Customs, Star Children, and Light Bearers from the Muhlenberg College Lucia Fest:
Next year I’ll miss the Lucia Fest at Muhlenberg, but my husband and I hope to be in Stockholm on December 13th to celebrate St. Lucia Day with the Swedes! We plan to attend the Lucia Concert at the Stockholm Royal Cathedral. Click here to watch a video of its beautiful Lucia procession, and hear the traditional Lucia song, Sankta Lucia.
Blue Church Art