Lucia - the myth and the celebration

St. Lucy, or Lucia as she is known here, is celebrated annually in December – not the least at Skansen. The origins of this peculiar festival in the winter darkness stems from the medieval saint, Nicholas. When the Reformation came to Northern Europe, the adoration of saints was prohibited, but some of them, especially Nicholas, the generous patron saint of schoolchildren, were not easy to do without. So the Germans replaced the bearded saint and bishop with the Christ child and transferred the distribution of gifts from the feast of St Nicholas, on 6th December, to Christmas. During the 17th and 18th centuries the Christ child, represented by a girl dressed in white linen tunic and with a candle wreath in her hair, played this part and the tradition spread to the western parts of Sweden. Here the day for the feast was transferred to the 13th December which was regarded as the longest night in the year, and the Christ child was called Lucia - Lucia being connected to lux, the latin for light. In the beginning of the 19th century Lucia became known elsewhere in Sweden and the earlies record of a Lucia celebration at Skansen is dated 1893.