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Sankta Lucia, the tradition that went back from the cold

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Once again, the Nordic Christmas came back in the center of Rome (on the evening of December 11th, two days before the date marked on the calendar for the celebration of the most important winter celebration in Sweden). During the evening the choir came out of a doorway in Piazza di Pietra, in the city center, performing Swedish festive songs included, as tradition dictates, that famous “Sankta Lucia” which has Italian origins.

 

At the end there were the typical saffron buns (lussekatter) and gingerbread (pepparkakor) accompanied by mulled wine. The girls and boys – selected from among many students who have applied to be chosen to promote the tradition in Italy – study at the Nordiskt Musikgymnasium of Stockholm.

In the prestigious school in the Swedish capital, in fact, various disciplines of music are studied, but in the center of Rome, this December, there were only songs (as in true Nordic Christmas) once the classic semicircle with Lucia in the middle – with the typical lighted candles on her head – was formed.

Into the folk belief in Sweden, December 13th was a night full of spirits, that the community faced with songs and vigils, as Ruth Jacoby (Ambassador of Sweden to Italy) explained in the historic center of Rome, in Piazza di Pietra. Only in 1600, when the Christian culture was deeply rooted, women in the villages began to dress in white and in 1800 the night of Saint Lucia had become respected throughout Sweden.

When this tradition was Christianized,  the festivity incorporated elements that originated in Italy, such as the martyrdom of Saint Lucia, in Syracuse in 304 AD. The newspaper Stockholms Dagblad, organizing the first “official”  Saint Lucia in the Scandinavian country, began the custom of celebrating the festivity at the open air museum Skansen in Stockholm, where the celebration still takes place.

The initiatives in Italy were not limited to folklore, Ewa Bjorling, Swedish Minister of Trade, visited Rome and Milan from December 10th to 12th, to talk about the economic relations between the two countries and she stated that it will be important to strengthen the collaboration during the Italian presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2014: official talks have included – in addition to the celebration of Saint Lucia at Piazza di Pietra in Rome and to the event together with the Italian-Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Milan (Assosvezia) – dialogues with the Italian Minister for European Affairs, Enzo Moavero Milanesi , with representatives of the World Food Programme of the United Nations and with the Swedish companies operating in Italy.

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