Gingerbread Cult of St Lucy
As a pretty recent tradition, the morning of 13 December is celebrated in Sweden with quite a bit of ceremony. It involves white-robed, predominantly young female carolers led by a candle-crowned girl, performing a specialised repertoire of songs in honour of St Lucy (Sw. Lucia) and St Stephen in addition to generic Christmas carols. Considerable amounts of candles, saffron buns, ginger biscuits, coffee and sometimes mulled wine are consumed in the process. It's a huge deal in kiddie schools and Kindergartens. Flabberghasted Nobel laureates are woken before dawn at their hotels and relentlessly be-carolled.
This very Catholic custom is uniquely Swedish, which may be slightly surprising given the fact that the country has been Protestant since the 16th century. But winter in Sweden is dark and cold, with the weather steadily getting worse through the long autumn months. We really need a Candle Maiden in deep December when we're still a week on the wrong side of the solstice.
Björn Fromén of the Stockholm Tolkien Society translated a combination of the two most common Lucia hymns beautifully into High Elvish (and I just can't believe it's almost ten years since we put it on-line!). Here's the first verse:
Lumna cormóres narAnd in Swedish:
peler ar mardor,
or ambar alanar
caitar i mordor,
íre mir lóna már
Ela i calmacolinde,
Natten går tunga fjätThe tune is a traditional Neapolitan one, and the original Italian lyrics, coincidentally, are decidedly Tolkienian: Sul mare luccica l'astro d'argento..., "The silver star gleams over the sea...".
runt gård och stuva.
Kring jord som soln förlät
Då i vårt mörka hus
stiger med tända ljus
[More blog entries about christmas, sweden; jul, lucia.]