ASI is a museum, cultural center and historic mansion located just south of downtown Minneapolis.
December 13 is a special day in Sweden - Saint Lucia Day. (ASI President/CEO Bruce Karstadt took the above photo at the Modern Museum in Stockholm today.)
Exactly how the legend of Saint Lucia — the fourth-century martyr from Sicily — made its way to Sweden is unclear, but the reason the tradition of celebrating her remains strong is less puzzling. Lucia is a symbol of light and hope — two things badly needed in a country where people only see between zero and seven hours of daylight per day in the winter.
Today in Sweden—nationally as well as in homes, schools and various community groups—a young woman is chosen to dress as Lucia, in a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head. She is accompanied by attendants and star boys, singing traditional songs.
Earlier today, this note came from ASI President/CEO Bruce Karstadt, recounting his first ever Lucia Day in Sweden — and quite a day it was!
“Today for the first time I awoke on December 13, Luciadagen, in Sweden. My day started at 7 a.m. watching the national broadcast Lucia program on SVT 2. It was absolutely beautiful. At 10 a.m., I found myself sitting in the church within the Royal Palace to see the Lucia program there. Each year there is a Lucia program for the Palace staff, and I was invited to come as a guest of one of the Palace’s curators, Kerstin Hagsgard. This year, the King, Queen and Crown Princess also attended. The Lucia performance was lovely — a six woman choir as attendants to Lucia — seven voices in all filling the lofty Baroque chambers of the Palace’s church. They sang 10 songs, about 30 minutes in length, and then we adjourned to a nearby spot in the Palace for glögg and pepparkakor, where I had a chance to speak briefly to Her Majesty. Just amazing. My Luciadag continued at the Modern Museum, where, during lunch with a friend, a small Lucia choir from a local school entered the museum’s restaurant and presented a brief program for all who were dining there at the time. Quite spontaneous, quite lovely. Every bakery I walked by in Stockholm was selling lussekatter - even the 7-11 store near my hotel. It’s a magical and lovely day in Sweden, where everyone seems to find a moment to stop, to listen to a choir, to reflect upon possibilities of peace and service to others to the beautiful voices of young people.”
While Bruce was enjoying the day in Sweden, here at the American Swedish Institute we had our own Lucia Celebration in the Grand Hall of the Turnblad Mansion in the early morning hours, lit only by the candles on Lucia’s crown and those carried by the attendants. Here is our Lucia with her court:
And finally, our whole luciatåg is made up of about 100 children ages 4 to 18. Here they are at Augustana Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, where they perform on the Saturday closest to December 13: