Sunday, September 16, 2018

Bring in the gnomes

Lucia is an annual Swedish Christmas-related tradition. Named after St Lucia (the person, not the nation-state!), it's celebrated on December 13. The original St Lucia was a 4th century Christian martyr, said to have perished in the Diocletianic Persecution. In Sweden she is known as “the queen of light”, but the Christian overtones are still obvious, such as Christmas carols and Bethlehem stars. Considering that Sweden is the most secular place on Earth (with the possible exception of Eugene, Oregon), the Lucia tradition looks weirdly out of place!

A traditional Lucia procession includes Lucia herself, her maids, and the peculiar-looking “star boys”. In some versions, the white-clad celebrants are accompanied by a gnome or Santa Claus. When kids celebrate Lucia (which they invariably want to do), some participants also dress as “gingerbread men” (and women). The “Gingerbread Song” is the only frivolous tune sang during the otherwise solemn procession. This cute little photo shows a girl Lucia, presumably from a day-care center, together with a Santa. Personally, I'm a bit old fashioned when it comes to Lucia, so in my book the companion should be a grey-clad gnome but YMMV…

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