Four hundred and seventh åsic- Saint Lucia brings the Light in the Dark!

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Saint Lucia or Saint Lucy of Syracuse, from round 300 AC, is today’s protagonist in many different settings… The legend says that Saint Lucia was born in Italy in Syracuse. She was of noble family, but since her father had died Saint Lucia and her mother didn’t have any other solution to support themselves but for the young Lucia to marry a rich man. Lucia, however, had already dedicated her heart to God and did everything in her power to prevent a marriage. According to the legend, Lucia’s eyes were very beautiful. She even tore her eyes out and gave them to one of the men who came to propose, because she wanted to discourage the man. When Lucia was buried her eyes had been restored through miracle and that was also why she was honored as a Saint during the Middle Ages (1).

Why would a country like Sweden celebrate a saint from Italy, you may think? In the winter Sweden and the other Nordic countries long for the summer not only because of the cold and snowy winter, but also because of the darkness. Saint Lucia is celebrated every year the 13th of December and in Sweden the tradition is still very important for Christmas celebration. Many of the traditional songs are sung not only the 13th, but also during Christmas.

Lucia processions are organized all over Sweden and throughout all different sectors in the society. Kids celebrate in pre-schools or schools and adults celebrate if they are choir members for instance. Many towns or cities i Sweden have their own Lucia processions and on TV they show the official Lucia show of the year.

As a young girl I was in my first Lucia procession when I was a few years old. As a teenager I started to sing in a girls choir called Bjursåsflickorna. We gave many Lucia concerts every year. One of the years we were asked to perform at a dinner in the Royal Castle in Stockholm. It was very exciting and a memorable moment. Princess Madeleine who is now a Mom herself, was climbing on the chairs and crawling under the table and was quite an active little girl at the time. The very same choir also performed a traditional Lucia concert at Lugnet’s sports stadium in April… We were pretending it was winter, because of some honorable guests from the International Olympic Comittée. One of them was the chairman at that time, Juan Antonio Samaranch. The idea was for us to sing to bring the Olympic Winter Games to Falun… Obviously that was a  mission impossible. Falun lost.

Singing for Lucia in strange places seemed to be one of the habits of this choir. I remember we even sang in the Falu Copper Mine, in almost complete darkness and with the damp vitriolic scent in our noses, helmets on our heads and just a candle to light our way down there. Very exciting and completely unique at that time. I know that later on, many other choirs have sung in the copper mine, too. Nowadays I come across Lucia processions ”by accident”, like for instance today when I visited the shopping mall Kupolen in Borlänge, or when students at school perform. I have also accompanied my own children on different occasions, but for myself, I would say my celebration of the Saint Lucia is found in memory lane…

Before I let you go, let’s just glance at a picture of a typical saffron bun, called ”lussekatt” in Swedish.#lussekatter, #asaole

But hey… Why invent the wheel??? Please check this link from youtube in order to finally understand this topic!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy

One Hundred and Eightyfourth Asic- Christmas Time at School

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I heard on the news this morning that the very label of what we do in December is focus for discussions not just here in Sweden, but also in the USA- Christmas or ”Winter Festival” , that is the question…

As a child I always anticipated Christmas time at school since I knew we would soon be off for our long Christmas Holiday, but also because many of the school activities were a lot more fun then. I was nine years old when I for the first time sang in a school choir and since I enjoyed it very much, that was the start of a tradition in my personal life. Later I sang in a choir with girls only and we performed Lucia concerts every year from early December until Christmas. As a teacher my own students were involved in similar activities and many of them also played instruments. We all enjoyed the concerts and evening activities when parents were invited and often we also had fika. Please read more about fika in a previous blog post:

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Swedish schools have a long tradition in celebrating Christmas in many different ways. Long ago it was closely connected with the Christian Christmas celebration and I remember many events held in church with priests involved. I also remember how my class and I would build our own crib in the classroom and read stories from the Bible. Nowadays schools seem to avoid church activities for the reason that school in Sweden is non-confessional and thus Christmas is slowly changing into ”winter”-celebrations rather than ”Christmas” in particular. When I think back of all the songs we usually sing for Christmas, I hardly know one with a non-religious meaning… yes there are a few with just ”winter” theme, but really, most of them are based on a Christian belief. What will happen if we just refrain from singing them? Will they be forgotten? I don’t think so. I think music is an everlasting expression of emotions that we need to cherish no matter what. I also think that in the secularized world today, we sometimes need to focus on cultural aspects of traditions as well. Even if many people in Sweden not openly confess to any religion in particular, they may enjoy old traditions such as Christmas songs although the lyrics are written from a Christian point of view.

This year, the winner of the Swedish Idol contest, Martin Almgren has recorded an old traditional Christmas song called O Helga Natt (or Adams julsång). This version is really good and I advice you to follow the link and listen! Let’s celebrate the connections that are possible to make through MUSIC and if you are among those who cannot stand religious music, then let’s hope you don’t speak Swedish…since this is sung in Swedish;

Merry Christmas!!

or if you prefer a more profane greeting;

Happy Holidays!!!