Christmas and the Swedish Legend of Santa Lucia

IKEA. Volvo. Meatballs. Buxom blondes in bikinis. Most of the things that make Americans think of Sweden hold very little interest for young people. As we don our winter hats and gloves, thinking of Santa Claus, the Swedes are thinking of someone else this month.  The Swedish Christmas tradition of Santa Lucia is a legend that fascinates children around the globe much like Santa. It even inspires kids everywhere to re-create this fun Swedish custom by creatively fashioning  the dress and lighted head wreath of the celebrated Lucia.

Celebrate Sweden’s legendary heroine, Santa Lucia!

According to legend, when a terrible famine plagued the country of Sweden around the year 300 A.D., a woman named Lucia appeared on a lake in a large ship. Dressed all in white, with a wreath of twigs lit up upon her head, Lucia came bearing food and clothing for the starving population. As the story continues, however, Lucia was eventually persecuted for being a Christian and burned at the stake. Her body would not burn and she glowed with light as she died. Lucia became a martyr and from then on was known as the great patron saint of light.

While the legend’s ending proves to be rather grim for most kids, the celebration of Lucia’s life brings much joy. To this day in Sweden (and in communities all over the world with large Swedish populations) families celebrate Santa Lucia by having a daughter in the household dress in a white dress with a red sash and a wreath made of lingonberry twigs. Atop the wreath are seven candles that symbolize the welcome light that Lucia brought to her people in their time of need.

Share the legend of Santa Lucia

(the joyful parts, at least) with your child this December, and help them celebrate this Swedish Christmas tradition by making a Santa Lucia wreath of their own:

  1. Use any color construction paper to create a headpiece that fits around your child’s head comfortably, like a crown. Even a twig or small grapevine wreath would make a great headpiece.
  2. Use green construction paper to cut out and glue enough leaf shapes to cover the entire headpiece. For fancier designs, you can use ivy garland from you local craft stores.
  3. Cut seven candle shapes out of white construction paper and seven oval-shaped “flames” out of yellow construction paper. Glue the candles and flames together. When they have dried, glue the candles around the headpiece, visible over the leaves.
  4. Lastly, cut small circles out of red construction paper, to represent Swedish lingonberries. Glue the berries around the leaves.

With a simple white dress and a tray full of treats, your child is ready to celebrate Sweden’s legendary heroine, Santa Lucia!

Signe WhitsonSigne Whitson, LSW is a child therapist, blogger, mom and a master trainer for the Life Space Crisis Institute. Her ideas and tips for celebrating holidays with your children are brought to you by My Baby Clothes Boutique. They are proud to be able to give back to the parenting community by providing the advice of Signe. Along with providing help for families, she also co-authored a book on handling passive aggressive relationships in our everyday lives, “The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools and Workplaces.” Her blog the Passive Aggressive Diaries was created to be a resource for people to share in the hilarity that comes along with these behaviors. Photo courtesy of Waldorf Mama