This Sunday, Dec. 11, area residents are invited to gather at Dalesburg Lutheran Church, 30595 University Road, to participate in the 39th Celebration of the St. Lucia Tradition. The Scandinavian celebration features a program, Lucia Court with one teenage girl out of four being crowned Lucia and a buffet of Scandinavian food in exchange for a free will donation for area food pantries.
“Everyone is invited to attend,” said Ron Johnson of the Dalesburg Scandinavian Society. “The program features Swedish and Scandinavian Christmas hymns, the recitation of the legend of St. Lucia and its modern celebration. It is a time to sing Christmas hymns that were more popular in bygone days.
“It is an opportunity to hear the Christmas Gospel read in Swedish, reminiscent of a time when the Scripture readings, sermon and hymns were all in Swedish at the Julotta service early on Christmas Day many years ago,” he said. “We celebrate our Swedish/Scandinavian food tradition at Lucia with a buffet of Lucia buns, fruit soup, thinbread, bread, rice, and meats. We close our evening with ‘Nu Ar Dt Jul Igen’ – Now It Is Christmas [Yule!] Again.”
Dalesburg’s first Celebration of the St. Lucia Tradition was held on Dec. 13, 1977. This year should actually mark the 40th Celebration of the St. Lucia Tradition, but snowstorms on two weekends in 2008 forced the celebration to be cancelled entirely that year. Over the years, the format of the celebration has varied slightly, but the reason for the celebration has not.
The Lucia Tradition, explains Johnson, has a long history in Sweden and is all about light, caring, and goodwill.
“The tradition goes back to oral accounts of maidens in white dresses appearing with food for hungry people,” said Johnson. “The tradition goes back to maidens in white appearing during the long winter nights as a promise of shorter winter nights ahead. These oral traditions collected themselves into annual St. Lucia observances in homes, schools, towns and cities in the early 1900s, with the selection of a Lucia with her wreath of candles on her head and her court of white-robed maidens singing songs describing the history and tradition of Lucia and of the Yuletide Season.”
Legends paint Lucia as a martyr and saint. She was a young Christian woman living in the 300s in the area now known as Italy, who aided her friends who were hiding in caves during a time of persecution of Christians. According to the legends, Lucia brought food to her friends, using a wreath of candles on her head as a lamp to see in the darkness of the cave.
“Her dedication to her Christian values of generosity and caring led to conflict with the Roman authorities and finally to her demise at their hands,” said Johnson. “It is believed that Christian missionaries coming from Continental Europe brought this legend to Scandinavia where it found fertile ground among the stories of maidens in white appearing in the cold, dark December nights.”
Sunday’s 39th Celebration of the St. Lucia Tradition begins at 3 p.m. at Dalesburg Lutheran Church.