Sonntag, Dezember 13, 2009

Saint Lucia, the bringer of light

Hello from Sweden to you all.

Today, on the 13th December in Sweden thousands of young girls, dressed in white gowns, holding a lit candle and, with a crown of candles on their heads, bring light to the darkness of Swedish winter.

A procession of tärnor (maidens) and stjärngossar ("star boys"), also wearing white gowns and pointed hats with gold stars on them, is lead by a girl in a white dress with a red ribbon and an evergreen wreath with lighted candles on her head. She is know as Lucia.

During a dark winter in Sweden, the idea of light overcoming darkness, and the promise of returning sunlight has been welcomed for hundreds of years. The processions on Saint Lucia Day are illuminated by candles which is also emphasised in the traditional Lucia song which describes how Saint Lucia banishes the darkness by bringing light into each household.

St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was killed for her faith in Syracuse, Sicily, year 304. St. Lucia Day commemorates the day of her martyrdom but it also coincided with Winter Solstice under the old Gregorian calendar. Because her name means "light," many of the ancient light and fire customs of the Yuletide became associated with her day.

The Lucia celebrations also include pepparkakor (ginger bread) and lussekatter (saffron-flavoured buns). You eat them with glögg, which is a mulled wine made of red wine, sugar, spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and bitter orange, generally served with raisins and almonds.

At ICEHOTEL the Lucia procession is made up of school children from Kiruna or Jukkasjärvi and takes place in the Main Hall. Traditional Christmas carols sung by the children disappear into the high vaulted ceilings and flickering candles cast a soft glow on the snow walls. It is a touching scene in the true spirit of Christmas.

Kerstin Nilsson, Hotel Director at ICEHOTEL, has arranged the Lucia celebration at ICEHOTEL since the first season.

- I like traditions, and the Lucia celebration is one of our finest. The idea of bringing light in the darkness and listening to the children singing is pure joy. Many of our guests have never heard of the Saint Lucia Day but are pleasantly surprised and find the event both touching and beautiful. It wouldn't be Christmas without Saint Lucia Day.

Dienstag, Dezember 08, 2009