The Swedish tradition of Sankta Lucia shares many similarities with advent processions held here in the UK. It symbolises the bringing of light into the dark winter and is one of the most significant services in the Swedish ecclesiastical calendar.
The celebration of Sankta Lucia is based on the bravery and martyrdom of a young Sicilian girl who is said to have died in the early fourth century. Her name and story reached Sweden along with Christianity, and she remained popular even after the Reformation as the bringer of light during the long darkness of winter.
The event continues to have a special place in every Swede’s heart and is celebrated in practically every home and church, community hall and hotel, school and workplace on the official day of Lucia which is the 13th December and which in the ‘old calendar’ was the longest and darkest day of the year.
For the first time yesterday York Minster hosted a Lucia procession. The procession enters singing the traditional Lucia song, the tune of which was brought to Sweden from Italy in the middle of the 19th century. The singers are all dressed in white gowns and carry candles, with Lucia herself as the focal point, wearing a crown of candles and a red ribbon round her waist, symbolising her martyrdom.
The procession was led by Sara Ringkrans, 28, a primary school teacher from York who moved to the UK from Stockholm, Sweden.
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