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Angels have nothing to do with Christmas in Sweden

Sweden's modern day Santa Lucia

Sweden’s modern day Santa Lucia

statue of santa lucia

Santa Lucia, the Italian Catholic martyred saint from the fourth century. Portrayed holding a plate of eyes which legend claims were gouged out during her torture.

The Swedes borrowed this martyred Catholic saint from the Italians then ground up, blended and stuffed her story into a sausage casing creating the unique experience that is Sweden’s Santa Lucia.

Traditionally the morning of Santa Lucia one female child wearing a white robe and a crown of lit candles leads a procession of children into the parents bedroom while singing the Santa Lucia song.

The children arrive bringing song, coffee, sweet saffron pastries and most important light into the dark room.

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Experiencing, while in the semi conscious state of awakening, the growing sound of the children’s voices combined with the slowly expanding light seeping under the bedroom door offers a glimpse into some long forgotten pagan experience lodged deep in our human consciousness.
All schools in Sweden host Santa Lucia pageants. Celebrating the holiday and reflecting the need for light and song at the darkest time of year, these events operate more like processions than beauty pageants. However the selection of Lucia can take on beauty pageant qualities.

Lucia pageant judges consider looks and height, however, singing ability remains the crucial criteria for the selection of Lucia. 

These Lucia pageants begin in daycare and continue up into high school. The daycare versions permit multiple Lucias. Those not wishing to portray Lucia can dress as various other Christmas characters.

We enrolled our two and a half year old daughter in daycare a few months after we arrived in Sweden.

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Her new school’s tradition offered the standard procession for the parents as well as a visit to a local retirement home.

When asked which Christmas character my daughter wished to portray I assumed my daughter child would pick the lead character, Santa Lucia.     

However she chose, instead, an angel. 

Her wish unfortunately was denied. 

When she questioned why they explained that angels were not on the list of culturally mandated Swedish Christmas characters.

You see angels have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas in Sweden.
So began her indoctrination into Swedish Christmas culture.

They then welcomed her to choose from the list of culturally mandatory and sanctioned Christmas characters.

For starters she may wish to portray the day’s name sake Santa Lucia, a brutally martyred Sicilian Catholic saint represented by wearing a white robe, a red sash representing Lucia’s spilt blood and crown of candles in ones head.

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Lucia's wingwomen

Lucia’s wingwomen

For the less ambitious they offered the ‘always a handmaiden never a Lucia’ option of Lucia’s handmaiden portrayed with the standard white gown, a hand held candle and the ring of tinsel in ones hair. This supporting role offers less responsibility as well as less neck and upper back pain since one does not wear a heavy crown.

Next up the Gingerbread boys or children dressed in brown pajamas with white trim and berets fashioned to look like gingerbread men.

This outfit, the perfect fit for the child with that ‘causal Friday’ fashion sense, comes in the new onesie style or the traditional two-piece version.

Remember when it comes to Yule time tradition, Christian or pagan, nothing says Christmas better than children dress as gingerbread men.

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women in front of Christmas tree

And for the holiday purest they offered the classic Santa’s elf with standard red with white trim outfit accessorized with the Santa hat and optional lamp.

Then for a uniquely Swedish experience they offered the star boy.

Star boys dress in a white robe wearing dunce hats with a gold star and carrying stick topped with a gold star.

This stylish Ku Klux Klan meets Harry Potter character just screams Christmas and offers the accessory of a stick to wave or poke others with.

boy in gown with wand
Girls may portray this character. However the star boy gender reassignment request forms must be submitted to the Swedish Christmas Culture Board no later than three weeks prior to Christmas as request takes time to process.

As for angels, please no Angels because Angels have nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas in Sweden.

Although considering the schools tradition included a visit to a retirement home the rejection her choices of an Angel reflect rather pragmatic reasoning. If the elderly people saw white lights and angels coming in the room they may think,

“ Oh this is it. They’re coming for me. ”

Traumatizing the children with a mass cardiac arrest flash mob has nothing whats ever to do with Christmas in Sweden.

So after this rejection she returned to the proverbial costume box and after quiet reflection my bilingual daughter who lives in a Swenglish world where words in Swedish and English at times fail her awkwardly asked

“Dad, what’s the name of Santa Claus’, you know, wife?”

“ Mrs. Claus?” I reply

“Yea, I’m gonna be her.” explained my daughter.

So back to her daycare’s Santa Lucia Pageant Costume Committee she went and again was denied. Even though, the pageant includes Santa’s helpers and Santa himself arrives after the procession to give out gifts, Mrs. Clause she has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas in Sweden.  I found this a bit disappointing in such a progressive, feminist, egalitarian society. But tradition is tradition.

So finally after pondering the true meaning of Christmas, she decided to be Jesus Christ.

As she announced her new choice I saw the wheels turning. In her imagination she would arrive at school as the king of kings himself rolling into room and announcing, “ People it’s me Jesus Christ, bow down! Let the holiday begin and you gingerbread boys bring me some hot chocolate, now!”

But alas her request was denied because Jesus Christ has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas in Sweden.

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