This weekend, I watched a little piece of Swedish magic came to a small town in Wales. It came a little early, as Saint Lucia’s day, the Swedish festival of light, is celebrated on December 13th. But the magic was still the same.
St Lucia is an Italian saint who devoted her life to the poor and was martyred for her faith. She is represented by a girl dressed in white with a red ribbon tied round her waist wearing a crown of candles, accompanied by attendants, also dressed in white, singing traditional Lucia songs.
This Lucia took place in Machynlleth, near Aberystwyth where the publishers of ‘Eden’s Garden’, Honno Press, are based. And next door to the famous Centre for Alternative Technology. As well as celebrating Lucia, the evening was raising funds for a local charity, Hazina, which is raising funds to build a girls’ hostel in Tanzania so that girls can continue with their education into secondary school without having to make a long and sometimes risky journey to and from school each day. They’re doing well so far and you can see pictures of the hostel going up here.
The evening started with a concert by two Swedish opera singers, who had flown in especially for the occasion. Then the lights went down and slowly the sound of distant singing began to emerge from the dark as Lucia with her crown of candles burning brightly in the darkness appeared, making her way slowly through the audience. Since the tune to Lucia’s song is surprisingly familiar (as you’ll find out if you follow the links below) everyone joined in for the English version as Lucia made her way out of the church again.
As you can see, it was atmospheric and truly magical for children and adults alike, and a great way to start Christmas. It’s that thing about candlelight in an old church that somehow not even the swishest of special effects can capture.
Although I think the Glögg might have gone to my head, as I seem to have volunteered to be one of Lucia’s attendants for next year. The long white dress and the tinsel I can deal with – what girl wouldn’t? – but I think I’d better start learning the Lucia song in Swedish straight away! Luckily I have some very good teachers. So if you see me wandering around muttering during 2012, you’ll know I’m practicing …..
We didn’t film our Lucia, but if you want to get an idea, and to hear the Lucia song, there’s a short video of a Lucia from Sweden here:
And because you will know the tune, and you may want to sing along (after all, it is Christmas) this is the English version:
Hark! Through the darksome night
Sounds come a winging:
Lo! ‘tis the Queen of Light
Clad in her garment white,
Wearing her crown of light,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Deep in the northern sky
Bright stars are beaming;
Christmas is drawing nigh
Candles are gleaming
Welcome thou vision rare,
Lights glowing in thy hair.
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
HAPPY SAINT LUCIA’S DAY, TUESDAY DECEMBER 13TH 2011!
And thanks to Dan for the beautiful photographs! (The blurry ones are mine, I should add) 🙂