Swedish Lucia celebrations light up mid-winter darkness
Lucia celebrations are taking place across Sweden today, the festival of light illuminating the mid-winter darkness.
SVT television and Swedish Radio broadcast their traditional early morning Lucia services, watched and listened to by Swedes across the country.
Saint Lucia's Day, on the 13th of December each year, is one of the most important days in the Swedish holiday season.
The day has become a festival of light in the middle of the winter darkness. In the old calendar, the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, fell on December 13th, St. Lucia's day in the Catholic saint's calendar. From that day on, the light returned.
Swedes celebrate the saint of light, traditionally with young women or girls in white gowns and red sashes led by a Lucia, singing the Swedish version of the "Santa Lucia" song, and accompanied by boys dressed as "star boys" or elves. Today the traditional crown of candles has mostly been replaced with electric lights.
Though Lucia traditionally is blonde, in recent years Swedish schools have started choosing dark-haired, or even dark-skinned, Lucias, and sometimes even boys.