Is Lucia going out of fashion?
For decades, the Stockholm suburb of Lidingö has celebrated Lucia. But this year, they have to cancel due to lack of interest. Has the age-old tradition become out-dated?
Sweden's own festival of light is celebrated on and around the 13th of December. A procession of white-clad girls and boys - or men and women - sing about bringing light in the darkness, and offer coffee, saffron buns and cinnamon biscuits. At the very front walks the Lucia, with a crown or a wreath of candles on her head.
It takes place every year, in nurseries and all the way into the more senior school years. And in many parts of the country people can also nominate, and then vote for, who they think should be the town's Lucia. It is supposed to be a festive event, but for those taking part, it is also hard work. Over a few days, Lucia and her procession will perform in numerous care homes and public gatherings. The tradition itself is a relatively new one, spreading across the country at the beginning of the last century.
This used to the event of the year for the Lidingö Lions club. But, as only only one girl signed up for it, they have been forced to cancel this time around.
"We have done this since 1967," said Roger Anbratt, president of the club. "It's a very big disappointment that we now have to cancel."
But it is not only Lidingö that has been forced to take this decision. Similar stories have come from all over the country, and according to Swedish Radio News a third of all municipalities no longer hold a community-wide Lucia event, as there is simply not enough interest to keep it going. But why not?
In the media, people have been calling it an old-fashioned beauty contest, and saying it is unreasonable to expect that young people volunteer to do something like this. One newspaper columnist wrote: "If you are so interested in the tradition, why don't you sign up yourself?"
Radio Sweden went to Hedsby upper secondary school in Lidingö to ask young people there why so few signed up. Some said they had not even seen the advertisement, but others said they didn't have time for something like this, there is too much to do in school. And then others again, saying the whole Lucia-thing is "boring" and more something for the younger kids.
But there are places where the Lucia celebrations continue as before. In Åkersberga, north of Stockholm, 11 Lucia candidates are getting ready to perform 14 times in just a few days. The girls here, don't think it is an outdated tradition. They say they love to sing, and that they have fun together with the other girls. They don't think of it as a beauty contest.
"When you vote, you look at the looks of the girls, so it is like a beauty contest. But for us girls, we all are going to be in the Lucia procession, so we are all going to sing as much as the Lucia does. So for us it is not a competition in that way," said Andrea Nord.
What really makes it worthwhile, say these girls, is that they will be singing to people in care homes.
"I have been working with older people. I know that if I come to them and talk to them they are very happy. And if I sing to them, they are even more happy - they are, like, shining," said Matilda Bernståhle.