Santa Lucia -- Celebration of Light

SWEDEN, land of the midnight sun. It is also land of the midday dark. Winder in Sweden is not only cold; it is dark. In the northernmost parts of the country, the sun does not rise above the horizon for a number of days of the year. In the more populous south, light is only seen for a few overcast hours each day. To combat the depressing darkness, Swedes hold fast to a tradition of light; it is called Santa Lucia.

Named after the Latin word lux, or light, Santa Lucia brings light into homes during the darkest time of the year. Dressed in a white gown, Saint Lucy wears a crown of lighted candles. On December 13, Santa Lucia day, schools across the country host a special celebration. Students, parents, teachers, and friends gather in the assembly hall. A celebration commences, songs are sung. The lights are turned off, and Santa Lucia, with her illuminated crown enters the hall. Fifty or more girls follow her, each bearing a single candle in her hands. The light that started with just a few candles worn by Santa Lucia grows as each girl enters the hall. Finally, a warm light of hundreds of candles illuminates the hall as the audience and the girls sing the traditional Santa Lucia song. The celebration engenders hope in the eventual return of the sun.

December 23 marks the beginning of winter and the darkest day of the year. The lethargic sun rises at the latest time it has all year and sets at its earliest hour. By mid December, most of the plants have died, the trees have lost their leaves, and the grass is brown and gray. The world appears dead. Although it is the darkest day of the year, it marks the turning point. As January and February pass, the days get longer as the earth starts it slow ascent to Spring.

April marks the beginning of Spring, the annually awaited season when life springs anew. Easter is celebrated by Christians around the world during this month. It reminds believers of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, His promised return, and his promise of resurrection for all.

Swedes, who hailed the fall of winter’s entombing darkness with a celebration of light, greet the coming of Spring with a celebration of life. They love cut flowers in their homes. Practically every growing thing is candidate for a vase on a Swedish hurstru’s (housewife’s) table. The uninitiated would think that the long dark winter had finally sent the Swedish wife over the edge when she fills a vase with sticks and places it on the table.

Just before Spring breaks, when it seems most likely that Winter will never end, the Swedish housewife gathers leafless branches from bushes and trees near her house. It appears to be a scraggly attempt to decorate the home. However, after a few days, the previously unnoticed buds unfold and delicate leaves cover the twigs. These leaves sport the light green of new growth, not the dark mature color seen most often through the season.

Winter, the season that in Sweden is ushered in with a human celebration of light, has been drowned out by life. Spring has sprung again and Christians worldwide are reminded of the Savior’s resurrection.

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