Foto: Åsa Westerlund

Foto: Åsa Westerlund

Lucia diplomacy at FCO and City Hall

Lucia is very much a favourite tradition in Sweden. The candlelit Lucia procession on 13 December is perhaps one of the more exotic-looking Swedish customs, with girls and boys clad in white full-length gowns singing songs together.

Most Swedish town, schools and nurseries crowns its own Lucia. Gradually the Lucia tradition is catching on in the UK. This year there are Lucia celebrations in Birmingham, Liverpool, Brighton, Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh and York.

Every year the Swedish embassy in London invites a wonderful choir from Kungsholmens gymnasium in Stockholm to celebrate Lucia in London. It has become a tradition that they perform a Lucia concert (or Lucia diplomacy) at the FCO and at the Swedish residence. This year the choir also performed at the City Hall and gave a spontaneous and much appreciated Lucia performance along the Thames.

The Lucia celebrations have become so popular that we now have several Lucia celebrations in London. The magnificent Swedish Church choir gives several Lucia concerts including one at the Swedish residence. The most spectacular Lucia event took place at Westminster Cathedral, where close to 1,100 people had gathered to listen to Christmas messages and enjoy the Lucia procession.

Many people ask questions about the origins of Lucia. The first modern Swedish Lucia appeared in 1893 in the open air museum Skansen in Stockholm, but the name comes from the Italian saint, Lucia, who was martyred in the 4th century. Its origins are actually more to do with a mixture of pagan and Christian traditions. In ancient times the 13th of December used to be considered a dangerous night when supernatural powers were at play. Even the animals were supposedly talking during the Lucia night.

The song the Lucia procession sings is really a traditional song sung by fishermen in Napoli. A Swedish composer who heard it on a visit to Italy, brought the tune back home and fitted suitable Swedish words to it.

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