Lucia (St. Lucia’s Day) is a tradition that is important for Swedish life in winter. It involves a lot of light.
The day celebrates the 4th century Christian martyr St. Lucy. Celebrations started in Sicily and eventually spread to Scandinavia. The name Lucia is related to the Latin word lux (light). Her feast day is 13 December because it was the date of the winter solstice, i.e. darkest day of the year, in the 14th century Julian calendar.
The day of Lucia, thus, signifies light and hope amongst darkness. With the sun not rising until almost 9am in Stockholm, and setting before 3pm, this is quite an encouragement in the dark Scandinavian winter.
In Sweden, the Lucia procession (Luciatåg) is an important highlight of the day. A girl carries candles on her head and leads the procession; the other children follow her, holding candles, all the while singing hymns especially those based on the traditional Neapolitan song Santa Lucia.