Wednesday, December 13, 2017

St. Lucia's Day

Happy St. Lucia's Day! Most Americans don't celebrate (or even necessarily know what it is) and I probably wouldn't either if it weren't for my beloved American Girl Doll stories featuring Kirsten, who appealed to me because I'm partly Swedish too.

The celebration involves the stories of St. Lucia, who supposedly gave all her wealth to the poor and was martyred for her faith. It's also a celebration of light, as most celebrations around the Winter Solstice tend to be, and would be especially appreciated in Scandinavia with so little sunlight this time of year. The traditional costume involves a wreath of candles worn on the head, because St. Lucia needed both hands free to bring food and supplies to Christians hiding in the catacombs.

Yet there's a different Lucy character in Scandanavia, Lussi. From Wikipedia: "Lussinatta, the Lussi Night, was marked in Sweden 13 December. Then Lussi, a female being with evil traits, like a female demon or witch, was said to ride through the air with her followers, called Lussiferda. This itself might be an echo of the myth of the Wild Hunt, called Oskoreia in Scandinavia, found across Northern, Western and Central Europe. Between Lussi Night and Yule, trolls and evil spirits, in some accounts also the spirits of the dead, were thought to be active outside. It was believed to be particularly dangerous to be out during Lussi Night. According to tradition, children who had done mischief had to take special care, since Lussi could come down through the chimney and take them away, and certain tasks of work in the preparation for Yule had to be finished, or else the Lussi would come to punish the household. The tradition of Lussevaka – to stay awake through the Lussinatt to guard oneself and the household against evil, has found a modern form through throwing parties until daybreak. Another company of spirits was said to come riding through the night around Yule itself, journeying through the air, over land and water."


The article later suggests that the folklore of Lussi and the traditions of St. Lucia combined to become the modern festival, but how interesting that there would be two opposite sides to the tradition. Riding through the air and coming down the chimney punishing children, Lussi sounds a lot like a combination of Santa Claus and his many scarier counterparts, such as Krampus. It seems that older traditions recognize the duality of powerful forces more so than our current cultural myths which usually only emphasize the friendly halves (at least in America. Other cultures still observe the punishing figures as well, I'd be curious to learn more about how they're celebrated!)

5 comments:

  1. I love the Lussi legend! I've sent a link to a workmate called Lucy.

    http://talesoffaerie.blogspot.com.au/2017/12/st-lucias-day.html

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    1. I've never heard it before this year! I wonder if it's not that well known or just my limited knowledge...

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  2. Heard about this off of a Mickey Mouse Christmas cassette tape back when I was kid. Still pretty interesting.

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    1. Haha nice! I feel like I would have been all over that cassette tape if I had it as a kid

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  3. Yikes! The Lussi/Lussiferda legend is scary! My name is Lucia!!!

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