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St. Lucy's Day (Sankta Lucia)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 12, 2008 10:28am | Post a Comment
Lucia by Carl Larsson 1908

Tomorrow is St. Lucy's Day, a holiday primarily observed in Northern and Central Europe, and the Upper Midwest. If it seems odd for Lutherans to observe a St. Day, it's because it sort of is. Then again, as with most Christian observances, the holiday's roots have nothing to do with saints or Christianity.

St. Lucy's Day begins with a young girl clad in white with a lit crown of candles positioned in her hair in a fir wreath (or lingonberry or whortleberry twigs). She leads a procession of candle-bearing girls with coffee, ginger snaps, glog and St. Lucia buns (lussekatter). Sometimes there are boys in conical hats known as "star boys." The children sing Lucia songs which provide a welcome break from Christmas Carols.

Legend of Santa Lucia

Falling near the longest night of the year, the symbolism of young maidens bearing light-bringing fire and bounty isn't too hard to figure out, but if you must know the official Christian version of events, then here you go. Officially, Lucia helped the early Christians in Italy who hid in the catacombs. In order to see, but needing to bring food in her hands, she contructed a wreath of candles. Yeah... right.

Lussi die dunkle kidnapping children

The truth is that before the light-bringing Lucy was invented, Germanic people and their neighbors observed "Lussi Night." The figure, Lussi die dunkle, was a dark, evil female spirit that came on the 13th of December to punish those with uncompleted tasks. Similar (and perhaps to related) to Lillith, the Mesopotamian storm demons, Lussi also preyed upon children. In fact, a whole mob of Lussiferda (Lisle-Ståli, Store-Ståli, Ståli Knapen, Tromli Harebakka, Sisill, Surill, Hektetryni and Botill) would go around an enter houses through chimneys to kidnap children. Sound vaguely familiar?

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