the queen of the light

lucia krona - lions seShe comes to us early in the morning of the 13th of December with her maids and sings for us, Sankta Lucia.

Every school, hospital, TV channel, intuitions, hotel, larger working places, department store, airport, organization, church, and home with kids has their own Lucia. What I understand has every IKEA store their Lucia all over the world. The first Lucia documented wearing light on the head was in 1820 – and it was a man.

“Why do we celebrate Lucia?

Lucia celebration in Sweden is a custom that has its origins in folklore, legends, and historical facts. She comes with light when it is darkest.

Lucia is a historical figure who was born in Syracuse in Sicily in 280s. There is also historical evidence that she was martyred for their faith and the Catholic tradition, she is the patron saint of the blind.


In Roman society, it was an offense to be a Christian at the time, and Lucia was probably killed in 304 during Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. She was not older than 20-25 years.


Killed by her fiancé

The legends about her are many and details more or less truthful. She was born into a wealthy family, and it is said that as a child she decided to never marry and to give everything she owned to the poor. A vow of chastity that she was not told of their parents.


When she became betrothed to a man who did not share her Christian faith, she was beside herself. Legend has it that she gave her dowry to the poor and the fiancé became so enraged that he revealed that she was a Christian and she was killed with the sword.


The longest night

In Sweden, December 13 a special day long before the practice of Lucia procession came. Lucia Night was counted as the longest night of the Julian calendar. According to folklore, that night was dangerous, when supernatural forces were at work. People stayed awake and not fall asleep as the man.

In Germany, there was a tradition in which a girl dressed up to be “Christkindlein” a Jesus Child, with candles in her hair who represented a halo. In western Sweden was the tradition among the upper classes, but this was a grown woman dressed in white with candles in her hair came with ingestion of farm people during the vigil.” (information;

When our national TV channel (STV1) send their morning with Lucia – they have about 1,3 million viewers.

Sweden has also a national Lucia – vote by readers of one of the biggest magazines together with the Organization for Swedish Events, since 1973.

The largest annual Lucia concert takes place at the Globe, where Adolf Fredrik’s Music Classes, Stockholm Music Gymnasium and Stockholm Wind Ensemble playing and singing. This Lucia festival, are in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest with over 1200 participants. young lucia - sweden se

Lucia celebrates in St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London.
In Andersonville, Chicago and Gloria Dei Episcopal Church, Philadelphia and Swedish organizations in Seattle arrange celebrations too.

On 10th of December, the Nobel Prize Day, all winners and their families are woken up by Lucia at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, where they all are staying.

The red ribbon Lucia has around her waist is supposed to symbolize Lucia’s martyred dead, otherwise, has the Swedish Lucia very little in common with Saint Lucia. The crown Lucia wears are in big official events has real candles, otherwise it battery supplied crowns.

Personal I never became Lucia, in those days Lucia had to have long blond hair – but I was a maid year after year in school and in those days it was real candles in her crown, the “electric” crown wasn’t invented.

“What we call the “Lucia Song”, my could of music  – The music and the text is often quoted as composed and recorded in 1835 by Italian composer Teodoro Cottrau (1827-1879). It’s probably more likely that Cottrau, who was the son of the French-Italian composer and song collector Guillaume Louis Cottrau (1797-1847) recorded and translated the song from Neapolitan into Italian. Cottrau published song “Barca Rolla” 1849. The song came to Sweden at the beginning of the 1900 – and in 1921 it became connected to Lucia when it was published in the school songbook.” (information;’mature lucia - sverigesradio se

The Italian lyrics are about the ocean and sailing – even if it’s the same tune – our lyrics are totally different. Swedish lyrics are written by Sigrid Elmblad in 1924.

“Saint Lucia, bright clear mirage,
spread in our winter light of your beauty.
Dreams of wing sough over us prophesy,
spark your white candles, Santa Lucia.

Come in your white robe, gracious with your call.
Grant us, you Christmas Bride, Christmas joy
Dreams of wing sough miracle we predict,
spark your white candles, Santa Lucia.

Troll seidr and dark power of light you subjects,
flames guard protection us give.
Dreams of wing sough miracle we predict,
spark your white candles, Santa Lucia.

Stars who lead us, the way to find,
get your torches ready, fair priestess.
Dreams of wing sough , miracle we predict,
spark your white candles, Santa Lucia.”
(a very free translation with help of google)

For me personal is Lucia the most important and beautiful of all our Swedish traditions, maybe not the most fun – but for me, Lucia stands for all the lights that lite up Sweden during the darkest months.


Image provided by and thanks to

A couple years ago of our department stores decided to use for their advert a young boy dressed as Lucia … on FB, and a hate storm came on so strong that the department store decided to take away the image. All because the boy has dark skin and for not being a girl. A load of nonsense!! I feel so sorry for the boy. “It is to do violence to our traditions.”, somebody has written. Anyone has the right to be Lucia. So because of all the hateful comments and in respect of the young boy the department store decided to remove the image and advert, but all the loving comments were plenty more. Still, I can’t believe this is happening in our little country. I am ashamed of my countrymen’s behavior.

Last year the Swedish Children Cancer Foundation released this video – about their Lucia: Ebba, who suffered from leukemia when she was 7 years old. A  beautiful little video.

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle
or the mirror that reflects it.”
Edith WhartonLucia - fredrikshov se

Photos provided by and thanks to:

108 thoughts on “the queen of the light

  1. Nice to read all about the history of the Lucia. I didn’t know that the first Lucia was a man. Crazy. 🙂
    I want to say thank you for the Cd:s that you’ve sent me. You’re soooo kind. I’m listening to the first one right now. It’s great! Thank’s Viveka!

    • So glad you like them .. it’s all music from my blog and background to my posts – the dates of the posts are stated on the clover.
      Enjoy … !!! Thanks for letting me know.

    • Thanks .. I hope you watch the video too – give it 10 min .. stunning. Yes, for Lucia is more important then Christmas .. because she brings us all the lights for the dark months.

    • Globen is an indoor area for sport and music … and icehockey. It’s huge – and it’s built like a golf ball. 1200 was in the performance. Glad you like it. I love Lucia!

    • My pleasure, Malin … I missed it too when I lived abroad – but the only time I was really homesick was over Midsummer and I have never really celebrated Midsummer – always been working as an adult.

  2. I’ve always loved the song “Santa Lucia”, but never realized the history behind it. So arrestingly beautiful the song, I never bothered to find out! Thank you for educating me. The history is as interesting as the music…

  3. oh my gosh! this was wonderful! the sounds that came from those voices are so magnificent! the story you have explained about tradition is wonderful. I had never heard of that. What an experience to be able to enjoy the lights……..Thank you Viveka for sharing this beautiful blog with me!

    • … I thought you would like know the history behind Sankta Lucia. I was sure you knew what Sankta Lucia is, coming from a Scandinavian background. Glad you liked it.

  4. You need all the light and the warmth and the hugs you can get right now, Vivi. I enjoyed sharing with you this little piece of Santa Lucia’s day. Isn’t it extraordinary how many young women have died for their faith? I wish I could believe like that.
    Hope you are a little more comfortable today. My tree is finally up and I’m off to Newcastle to meet with a friend. Big hug for you first. 🙂

    • Jo, soon time to leave my friends after a brilliant weekend … going back to Landskrona in a couple of hours time – but first dinner.
      You’re so right .. many women as died because of their faith and still does.
      We don’t dress the Christmas tree until the 23rd … never had a Christmas tree since leaving home – it kills all green plans and I have plenty of them, but I like Chistmas trees. *smile
      Big Sunday hug …
      Thanks for your faithful support, Jo!

  5. Thank you for the history. I love the song, as a child it was one of my favorite piano pieces to play. I read St. Lucy’s eyes were first gouged before she was killed when she didn’t want to renounce her faith.

    • It’s a lovely song … so beautiful – strange thing is that our country has nothing to do with the catholic religon and still we have adopted this. Lucia is more important to me than Christmas is. Just because of the light she brings to our darkness up here.

    • A-C, had a great weekend with visit to Ullared this weekend – returning home in a couple of hours from my friends in Sjöbo.
      No change in my discomfort … ut lucky pills takes care of that some degree. *smile
      Wish you a great week.

  6. I love the culture in your blog, Viveka. I love the music you choose, the topics.

    I’d read a few blogs on St Lucia. It was interesting. I hadn’t known the half of it. I’m sure always to learn something, this neck of the woods. Beautiful, beautiful singing.

    • Lucia, is the tradition that is closest to my heart … together with celebration to welcome the Spring … last of April every year.
      Thank you so much for … your support for me trying to bring Sweden out in the world .. together with IKEA! *laughing

  7. What a beautiful tradition Viveka! Thank your for telling us all the fascinating back stories associated with it! I learn a little bit more about your lovely country on every visit 🙂

  8. This is the celebration I miss the most when living abroad. its not them same watching it on TV as seeing it live. The immense darkness and the beautiful songs. What I also like with Lucia is that it’s a kind of celebration that can not get commercilalised. It’s not about giving presents and not about decorating your home, it’s so pure. My parents told me that this year, it’s been difficult to find enough candidates in their town, and that that is a growing problem across Sweden. I wonder why, would be a pity if this tradition fades away.

    • I totally agree, this the celebration that I love most too … and missed it during all my years living abroad. And as you rightly say … It is impossible to make commercially. pu
      I really hope that it will not fade away …. this is one event that we Swedes should be so proud over and keep alive, because it’s pure Swedish. I’m not a Christmas person, but I love our lights in dark … and I keep some of mine lite until we change into summer time. Not the candles and stars – but electric windows wreath. I make me feel so good inside.

  9. What a beautiful tradition, Viveka….thanks for giving us the history. Glad you’ve had a good time with your friends, and hope I shall see you in London next month 🙂

  10. I love that song, it was my favorite piece when I was studying piano but I never knew the story the way you tell it. Thank you! And thanks for the post card. Got it!

    • Bebs, thank you …. glad the card has arrived.
      Yes, I have published this post since I started blogging – my favorite Swedish event … after that the Nobel Prize.

    • Hi, there – came back last evening …. a very nice, but very wet weekend – and with a sore neck. In such a pain again.
      Thanks for missing me. The only relief is that I will be okay in 4 days time. In time for Istanbul. *smile

      • Thanks, Jo …. feel better – but this neck problem is slowly – 3 time in less than 4 months.
        Manage to post for the weekly photo challenge – I think it was your hugs that helped me. Evening hug. *smile

    • Suzanne, you should try to make it to the St Paul next year. I know you will love it. Stunning tradition, we have and we are alone with it. I agree with you on all counts. *smile

  11. I have never heard about Lucia and the tradition behind it. Never knew it was a pivotal moment in history, and I actually enjoyed reading this post. Nice to hear that tradition still continues til this day. Lucia, a symbol of light, and it seems a beacon of hope and goodwill too. Wonderful.

  12. Happy Lucia’s Day, Vivi! 🙂 🙂 The light is just dawning here and I wish you much peace and joy in your heart. I love this song. It reminds me of school concerts too.

    • Thank you, Jo!!!!! Lucia, is that yearly event that is closest to my heart. Lucia and all her maids brings light in the morning or evening. Big event in London every year. We need all the light we can get those days, in more than one way. It reminds me about school too, but I always ended up as maid … in those days Lucia always had to have long blond hair, so happy that has changed today. LuciaHug!

  13. I love your glorious post, Viveka. I never thought of the fact that it is not commercialized – wonderful. And you are always on the move – did not know where you were, really! I learned you are meeting up with Sue this Christmas – what fun! Give her a hug from me as well! And do get well from that neck pain – I have got some of it as well. ♥

  14. Fascinating read Viveka and sad about the small boy – especially as Lucia was originally a man. I had a book when I was a child which told all the Christmas traditions across the world and this one was always my favourite. I think I secretly coveted the crown of candles! It’s good to know how the tradition started. Wishing you lots of light this winter. Not long until the shorted day now…

    • Yes, Lucia … is my favorite Swedish tradition. All the light it brings to the dark. It’s nearly dark the whole day now .. the weather is very British just now … rain and more rain. *smile
      Suzanne the spring feel very far away at least today, but it will come I’m sure. *smile

    • Lola, yes … it a lovely tradition and my favorite event of the year. Yes, the songs is lovely … but not very typical Swedish. *smile – We have stolen it. *smile

  15. Thanks for sharing the history, true or not, about this tradition. I can well imagine that the coming of light in this dark month was welcomed…and still is. I know Ritva is waiting for the solstice and the little bit more light each day as I’m sure you and everyone in Scandinavia is. Soon, soon, my friend. ❤


    • Janet, a pleasure … I have posted that post for quite a few years now … I’m not a Christmas fan, but I love our Lucia. 21th of December it’s turning and the nights are getting slowly shorter. *smile
      We haven’t had even one hour of sunshine so far this month – just 50 shades of grey every day. That is very unusual. So depressing.
      Thank you so much for the cheering on. Viveka

    • Janet, a pleasure … I have posted that post for quite a few years now … I’m not a Christmas fan, but I love our Lucia. 21th of December it’s turning and the nights are getting slowly shorter. *smile
      We haven’t had even one hour of sunshine so far this month – just 50 shades of grey every day. That is very unusual. So depressing.
      Thank you so much for the cheering on. Viveka

      • Sorry to read about all the grey, Viveka! I hope you get sunshine for Christmas, even if you’re not a fan. I love Christmas for what it means to me as a Christian and for the chance to spend time with family and friends and give gifts of one sort or another to those I love. ❤

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