On December 13 each year, Scandinavians honour a third century saint with the observance of St. Lucia Day, and mark the first day of the holiday season. Dressed in distinctive traditional garb, consisting of long, white gowns, red sashes, and a wreath-like crown of lighted candles, “Lucia brides” (usually a family’s eldest daughter) awaken their parents and families with songs, coffee, and saffron-infused St. Lucia’s buns, or lussekatter.
Like many other winter festivals, St. Lucia Day is a celebration of light during Scandinavia’s particularly long, dark winters. Like early Norse solstice celebrations, in which large bonfires were used to ward off the long nights, the inclusion of candles throughout the celebration is a reminder of the light of the coming year, and its triumph over darkness.
Photo: Bengt Nyman via Flickr