St. Lucia Through The Eyes Of A Swede In The StatesDecember 14, 2018
“Sankta Lucia, ljusklara hägring, sprid i vår vinternatt glans av din fägring. Drömmar med vingesus under oss sia, tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia.”
This melody, amongst other songs, still is going on repeat at this time of the year, even though I packed my bags and moved across the pond five years ago. I’ve come to enjoy this small tradition of ours later on in life because of familiarity and a patriotic instinct.
But when I was in high school, I probably would have said the opposite.
Sweden has always been known, from a “living in two different cultures” perspective, for being a very neutral country. We even have a word that cannot be translated into any other language that sums up the Swedish psyche perfectly. The word is “lagom” and is best translated as “just the right amount.” Nothing should be too much or too little, everything should be just in between. Which is pretty funny compared to the U.S., where everything, especially holidays, is extreme.
Even though there are no beauty pageants in Sweden, since that would go against the “lagom” that is deeply embedded in our culture and society, I would say that Lucia is nothing more than a popularity contest. Females with long hair, often blondes, are competing against each other in different schools, counties and even the entire country. The only difference between a beauty pageant and voting for Lucia is that whoever wins doesn’t need to have a talent. Everyone else in the “Lucia train” will sing, but Lucia will stand quietly in the front and look beautiful with candles in her hair. Which is pretty hilarious to think about: You’re voted to be a living candle holder.
Going back to my high school days, I remember that it was always a nerve-wracking time when the voting started. Posters of all the competitors were up on the walls and you could hear the echoes down the hallway created by students arguing who they should vote for. There was always a blonde girl who was voted on every year, even though Lucia was known for having dark features. Today that has changed. People simply vote for who they think is the most attractive candidate.
Personally, I think it would be an important lesson to teach everyone at an early age that practice and hard work, not physical appearance and gender, are crucial. But it’s hard to teach that lesson when no one admits that this tradition has more to do with someone’s looks and popularity, rather than the history behind it.
Even though my outlook on this tradition is not always positive, it’s still a big part of my upbringing.
So, I pour a cup of coffee, bake some gingerbread and sing along to “Sankta Lucia, ljusklara hägring, sprid i vår vinternatt glans av din fägring. Drömmar med vingesus under oss sia, tänd dina vita ljus, Sankta Lucia.”