Matilda Jarl, 15, from the Jarfalla chamber choir near Stockholm played the role of Lucia last night as she led the procession during the Swedish Sankta Lucia Festival of Light service at York Minster.
The Sankta Lucia service is a traditional Swedish service merged from pagan and christian traditions and celebrates Saint Lucy who was a young Sicilian girl martyred for her Christian faith in the early 4th century and celebrates the bringer of light during the long darkness of winter.
This service incorporates a candlelit procession of choristers from the Jarfalla chamber choir and Starboys from the Vaxholm Boys Quintet near Stockholm led by a young girl, Lucia, wearing a crown of candles on her head and a red sash around her waist.
The crown of candles is thought to symbolise a halo and the red sash martyrdom. This is the fourth time the procession has been held at York Minster and is run in conjunction with the York Anglo-Scandinavian Society.
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For the second year running the Sankta Lucia festival of light service was held at York Minster this evening. The Swedish tradition of Sankta Lucia shares many similarities with the advent procession that some people may be more familiar with. Dating back to the 18th century the festival symbolises the bringing of light into the darkness during the dark winter months and is one of the most significant services in the Swedish ecclesiastical calendar.
This year saw Annika Fredriksson, 30, originally from Eslov in Sweden but who now lives in York fulfilling a lifelong ambition of leading the Sankta Lucia procession.
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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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