Wikipedia do most of the work for me (though I prefer Posie Gets Cozy's more personal telling), but here are a few of my favorite details...
- Like most winter (and especially Scandinavian) holidays, St. Lucia Day evokes the struggle between light & dark, life & death.
- First celebrated in Sweden during the 18th Century, it spread throughout Scandinavia, faded a bit, and then experienced a strong renewal during World War II. For example, "In Denmark, the Day of Lucia (Luciadag) was first celebrated on December 13, 1944. The tradition was directly imported from Sweden by initiative of Franz Wend, secretary of Föreningen Norden, as an attempt 'to bring light in a time of darkness'. Implicitly it was meant as a passive protest against German occupation during the Second World War but it has been a tradition ever since." (Thanks, Wikipedia.) The same holds true even for countries with a longer St. Lucia tradition.
- Early on the morning of December 13th, the eldest daughter of a family dons a flowing white gown and a wreath of candles (electric these days, I hear) and brings breakfast in bed to her parents. The traditional saffron breakfast rolls are called Lussekatter, or St. Lucia buns, and here is a recipe, thanks to King Arthur Flour.
- In public processionals, the festivities are once again led by a be-gowned & be-candled girl, always blonde, which confuses me because St. Lucia was Italian. As a brunette, I especially love the gorgeous dark-haired girl in the photo above. Brunettes can wear dangerous hair-accessories, too!
- Carl Larsson painted this evocative glimpse of St. Lucia Day in 1908- don't you feel like you're there? The early morning darkness, the gratefully accepted cup of coffee, the scent of saffron and wax in the air. Someday.
- Gingerbread Snowflakes has a nice tutorial on how to convert a standard wreath into a St. Lucia wreath, including finding a reasonable facsimile for lingonberries.
- Over at Posie Gets Cozy, you can buy a Santa Lucia Clothespin Dollmaking Pattern, and there are detailed instructions as well.