December 13th marks Santa Lucia’s Day, a festival of lights celebrated in Scandinavian countries in honor of St. Lucia. One of the earliest Christian martyrs, St. Lucia was killed by the Romans in 304 because of her religious beliefs.
In Scandinavian countries each town elects its own St. Lucia. The festival begins with a procession led by the St. Lucia designee, who is followed by young girls dressed in white and wearing lighted wreaths on their heads and boys dressed in white pajama-like costume singing traditional songs. The festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavia, and it is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year. Schools generally close around noon on the day of the festival so that families can prepare for the holiday. Families observe St. Lucia’s Day in their homes by having one of their daughters (traditionally the eldest) dress in white and serve coffee and baked goods, such as saffron bread (lussekatter) and ginger biscuits, to the other members of the family. These traditional foods are also given to visitors during the day.
Ellie, 10-year-old daughter of author Kirstie Marx, is shown dressed in a Santa Lucia costume along with Louise Louis, who wears a traditional Swedish dress. On such a fun day, the Nisser want to be involved, too!