Monday, December 8, 2008

sankta lucia

i am going to be lucia in a lucia tårg! most likely the first jewish american lucia in the history of sweden.

The old date for the Lussi Night is December 13th, regarded as the longest night of the year and associated with the solstice. That was carried over into the new era. Between Lussi night and jól all kinds of trolls were thought to be out and about. It was particularly dangerous to be out during Lussi Night. Children who had done mischief had to take special care, because Lussi could come down through the chimney and take them. The lore also tells about a whole Lussi group traveling past: the Lussiferda. They were named as in a verse: Lisle-Ståli and Store-Ståli, Ståli Knapen and Tromli Harebakka, Sisill and Surill, Hektetryni and Botill. The Lussiferda could take people away, just like the Oskoreia or Jólaskreia could. This is another company of spirits (vetter), riding horses, which around yule-tide journey through air and over land and water, leaving eeriness and discomfort. Although not mentioned in any sources, it is very tempting to look at Father Christmas’ journey with his reindeer as a commercial relic inspired by such popular superstition.

The Saint Lucia tradition, then, is another example of Christianisation of pagan beliefs and customs. This Swedish tradition, which seems to have spread throughout the Western world, is probably an old culture-loan from Germany and explains the use of lights (Lucia from latin lux = light). Lucia adorned with the lights resembles the Christkindchen (Christ Child), who in certain parts of Germany wanders about in the community and entertains the children. This child is usually a costumed girl carrying a crown of lights. The name Saint Lucy given to this light procession tradition comes from the Italian saint who suffered a martyr’s death under the Roman Emporer Diocletian in Syracus, Sicily around 300 AD, and whose memory was already celebrated by about 400 AD. In one of the stories associated with her legend, she was working to help Christians hiding in the catacombs. In order to bring with her as much food and drink as possible, she needed to have her hands free. She solved this problem by making a wreath to wear on her head on to which she attached lights. Thus she managed to see in the darkness of the catacombs.

There are now also boys in the procession, playing different roles associated with Christmas. Some may be dressed in the same kind of white robe, but with a coneshaped hat decorated with golden stars, called stjärngossar (star boys); some may be dressed up as "tomtenisser" (Santa's little helpers), carrying lanterns; and some may be dressed up as gingerbread men. They participate in the singing and also have a song or two of their own, usually Staffan Stalledräng, which tells the story about Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, caring for his five horses.


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