From the book One Year in Sweden -
"Dec. 13th.— Long before dawn of day a virgin, clothed in white, wearing round her brow a crown of tallow candles, brought coffee to my bedside, singing a carol, as is the custom on St. Lucia’s day in Wermland and in Nerike——the two provinces where this early Christian saint’s day is still observed as a high festival.*
* When the northern year consisted of twelve months, each numbering thirty days—the six intervening ’twixt Christmas and New Year counting for nothing—St. Lucia, patroness of early breakfasts, brought the longest night. Though by New Style her day is upset, she is still in high repute.
For days before each hustru [wife] is busy preparing sausages, ham, eggs, cakes, and what not and when St. Lucia has served her morning beverage, the whole family descend to breakfast. The saintess sits at the festive board, queen of the morning—tallow dripping on her nose and hair; and if the meal lasts long her crown of candles has to be renewed. Then, breakfast over, all the world goes to bed again.
In early times a Christian damsel, Lucia [born in Sicily], each morn long before daylight bore food to the Christians hidden in caves near the Eternal City [Rome], for which crime she suffered martyrdom so horrible we won’t allude to it. That most ill-omened of all sovereigns, Erik XIV, was born on St. Lucia's morn.
In Sweden, December 13 is Luciadagen, St. Lucia’s Day, or in English, St. Lucy. It is the beginning of their holiday season. The Lutheran Danes and Norwegians also celebrate this day. ...
Stories of her courage were brought to Sweden by missionaries where she became known as the Lucia Bride. Old people said the Lucia Bride would go out early in the morning to bring food and drink to the poor. She wore white robes and a crown of light. Lucy, like the Latin lux, means light. Under the old calendar, her day was the shortest of the year.
The story is acted out in Swedish homes with the oldest daughter playing the Lucia Bride. Early in the morning on December 13, she brings her parents a tray of sweet saffron buns and some coffee. She wears a white gown and a crown of greens, often made of holly. Her sisters and brothers dress in white and follow her. The girls carry lit candles and the boys wear tall, pointed caps and are called “star boys.”
Marryat, Horace. One Year in Sweden; Including a Visit to the Isle of Götland, Volume 1
©2017 Patricia Bixler Reber
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