Lucia med levande ljus, tärnor, publik. I Aula Magna
Stockholm university choir. Photo: Ingmarie Andersson

It was a rush of coffee, lussebullar and gingerbread before the sixteen person choir with fine-tuned vocals stepped in and offered a classic Lucia repertoire with some modern elements.

Sun Qiyuan from China and Nico Herzog from Germany took part in a Lucia celebration for the first time. 

"This is very special to me," said Sun Qiyan. ”In China we do not officially celebrate Christmas but it is more of a commercial phenomenon. I am happy to be part of this Lucia celebration, it is a unique experience.”

Nico Herzog was somewhat more prepared for what was to come.
”I've been looking at Lucia processions on youtube to get in the Christmas mood. It is nice with lights especially now when it is so dark. Maybe I go to some church too to see another procession. I can't remember if we have anything like this in Germany, but on the other hand I'm not that traditional of myself. For example, I don't go to church at home”, said Nico Herzog.

Sun Qiyuan again:
”If I understood it correctly, Lucia is an Italian saint. Why do you actually celebrate Lucia in Sweden?”

Students by the window in Aula Magna. Christmas tree in front.
Sun Qiyuan and Nico Herzog celebrates Saint Lucia Day for the first time. Photo: Ingmarie Andersson.

Yes, why do we celebrate Lucia?

If you ask the common swede the answer is often something like "it was a saint in Italy called Lucia and ...." and then they become uncertain what this saint really has to do with Swedish Lucia celebrations. Well, nothing, if we mean by Lucia the traditional Lucia celebrated in the Swedish peasant society. According to the Julian calendar, which was used during the Middle Ages and up to the calendar reform in 1753, December 13 was the longest night of the year. It was a dangerous night with supernatural powers on the move and animals being able to speak. People therefore, stayed awake by eating a lot of food and invoking the powers of light to make it return.

Lucia Day was first a big party day in Western Sweden. In some places, in the 17th and 18th centuries, there was a woman dressed in straw, or a straw doll, which you could dance with. During the 19th century, Lucia appeared alone or with a few companions, which later became more when Lucia processions began to move into the cities.

Lucia, which is more reminiscent of the one we celebrate today, got its start in 1927 when Svenska Dagbladet announced a competition in which the winning Lucia girl led the procession with electric lights in her crown. The concept was then spread through other newspapers' Lucia competitions to more and more cities.