Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pikkujoulu & Luciapäivänä Pre Christmas Party on Lucia Day!

Happy St. Lucia Day from Finland!

There is a curious combination of Pagan and Christian traditions in the Nordic countries. Light plays a large part in many of the celebrations here (what with the ever shortening days) and so on December 13th, we have St. Lucia's day to celebrate the patron Saint of light and the blind. The day of St. Lucia traditionally marked the longest night. I found it a bit odd that she is a Catholic martyr and that Catholicism is not that well established here, but there you go! She was a Sicilian lass apparently.

The story tells that St. Lucia died a martyr's death asserting her Christianity by refusing to marry the Pagan husband that her parents had chosen for her. Her eyes were torn out but subsequently miraculously restored by the Virgin Mary. This was around the year 300 and she became a Saint in Siracuse, Italy, around the year 400 in Siracuse. She was mentioned in the 1200s "Legenda Aureassa" which was translated into several languages.

To be honest, it is more a Swedish celebration, (the picture above says 'God Jul' which is 'Happy Christmas/Good Yule' in Swedish) but then, there are many Swedish people and Swedish speaking Finns in Finland. Swedish is the second official spoken language here, so it makes sense that the patronage of St. Lucia has come here too. Lucia represents the return of light that will end the long winter nights and serves as a symbol of hope and peace for the Christmas season.

In fact the first Lucia Day celebration in Finland was only a few decades 1950 when an association by the name of Folkhälsan introduced Barbro Reine as Finland's first official St. Lucia at the Svenska Teatern, which is a Swedish speaking theatre.

Lucia Day has since spread to some English speaking countries, such as Australia and Canada..probably due to migration of Finnish and Swedish people. However, the first Nordic knowledge of a Lucia Day celebration is from Sweden, Western Gotland in the year 1746..(which was actually a part of Denmark before 1645!). What a web! At that time of 1746, Lucia was not shown wearing the crown of candles..but she did wear angel wings.

To honour this day, one girl from each town (and often in each school), is elected to be the St. Lucia and sing in her honour. Many villages and towns vote for their own Lucia via their local newspapers or there can be a school wide vote.

The girl wears a simple white dress with a red sash. On her head she wears a crown of lingonberry twigs, lit with candles and she carries a sheaf of wheat. (In some areas they still use real candles, but I think more often, for safety, they are now electric or battery operated!) The crown is said to represent an Angels halo. On this day in Sweden, the eldest daughter will play the role of St. Lucia by preparing and serving fresh bakes with coffee to her family at sunrise. That might sound very early..but it isn't - as the crack of dawn isn't so early at this time of year!

Helsinki hosts the St. Lucia of Finland. After her crowning, the St.Lucia will traverse, carefully, down the Helsinki Cathedral stairs and then move on to the Parliament House in a long procession through the streets. It all culminates at the Swedish theatre, where it all started so many years ago! Here the St. Lucia celebration is held.

In years past, the girl would go from one farm to the next carrying a torch to light her way, bringing baked goods, stopping to visit at each house and return home by break of daylight.

Lucia's original feast day fell on the shortest day of the year, when the winter solstice was then December 13, by the Julian calendar rather than December 21 - which it became later, linking the winter solstice to the far older Yule of pre-Christian times. BTW, Solstice in Latin means 'Sun stands still'..did you know that?

I love the feeling around this day.. and wish that I could attend an event.. but most are held either down south, or in Sweden. I'd love to arrange going to Helsinki one year.. as they have a Lucia Marketplace the next day too! Ah well.. maybe next year!

Here are a few Lucia related items, vintage pins that would have been purchased on a parade day.

Here are some youtube links I found to share with you.

Santa Lucia in Sweden

Delightful children!

Dark, but atmospheric parade...

St. Lucia in Helsinki

St Lucia waving!

This years Finnish Lucia was crowned at 5pm in Helsinki and was the first ever brunette Lucia! Her name is Sonja Sjöblom. Here is her Lucia candidate video from youtube.

And this image of her from the folkhalsan website.

Pretty eh?

From this link, you can read more about the Swedish Theatre and their charitable work of the Lucia event.;273;14384;14387;14388;14404

You may have noticed that the title to this blog read Pikkujoulu & Luciapäivänä... and that I've not talked about Pikkujoulu! What is Pikkujoulu.. well, it is a preChristmas party held by many businesses or groups of friends, to welcome in the Christmas spirit. It literally translates as 'Little Christmas'.

Last year, the ulkomaalaiset (us foreigners!) arranged our own Pikkujoulu at a local pizzeria...there aren't that many places available to go to.. and we wanted somewhere quiet. So, we went to the Alariesto Pizzapaikka...and we agreed to go back again this year! Unfortunately they ONLY sell pizza...nothing else..but it is nice pizza! Mine was a whopper - complete with smoked Reindeer and blue cheese toppings - amongst others!

There were meant to be more of us, but as it ended up, due to sickness, work or one thing or another, it ended up being just the four of us. Myself and Sally (English), Amel (Indonesian) and Agi (Hungarian). There should have also been a Finn, an Indian and a Russian person too... but oh well.. it happens!

As like last year, I got the job of arranging the party games... it's a bit of fun! I took some English Christmas Crackers too - as those don't exist in Finland. Here is Agi and Amel having a pull. Agi had not seen them before and Amel first knew of them only last year. I guess it's just a British thing.

I didn't mention anything about it being Lucia Day when we booked the party (I wasn't sure if they knew of it) and so I used a Lucia theme in the party games! We played several party table games. Each game winner won a battery operated candle (but I didn't say why) and then the winner of the most candles finally got crowned our Ulkomaalaiset Lucian 2008! :D (The candles all got put back into the crown) They also got some sweets for each game won.

We all took our own gift, played a game of 'Left and Right' where the parcels got passed around, back and forth, until the person holding the gift at the end, kept that particular pressie! Nice, simple fun! We all enjoyed it. I got Amel's present - and it was great! I won some lovely warm legwarmers.. just what I need, especially when sitting at the computer, believe it or not.. as I do get a little cold sometimes. (So, right now I am lovely and cosy! Thanks Amel!) I gave a gingerbread house making kit - which Sally won and was delighted with. We also played some drawing games with our eyes closed..Oh..and Animal Bingo.. funny!

As you can see, there is a nice painting on the wall..of Saami reindeer men.. phew but..nice price too..1350€!! Painted by one of the more recent Alareisto family, famous in this town for their art. There is also the Alareisto Galleria in Sodankylä in which hangs art by the most famous Alareisto member, Andreas.

Here are Sally, Agi and Amel with the candles they won.

Amel won the most, so she was duly crowned our very own 'Ulkomaalaiset Sodankylän Lucia!' Doesn't she look grand! :D

It was a fun, friendly evening! We agreed that we should do it more often!

After I got home, I lit my new present to myself.. a St. Lucia candleholder that I bought recently secondhand.. I am SO delighted with it! Happy Lucia Day folks!