Swedes Celebrate ‘Sankta Lucia’ Day in Duluth

Swedish celebration is a tradition around the holidays.

DULUTH, Minn.- In Sweden, the Holidays are ushered in by the ancient celebration of Sankta Lucia, or Luciadagen.

“The Lucia legend is that we want to bring light to the world,” said Jennifer Conboy, President of the Swedish Cultural Society of Duluth.

“Sankta Lucia was a Christian girl who was betrothed to a pagan man…and she did not want to marry him, and he got angry at that. And she was put to death.”

But it is the work she did before her death that is still celebrated years later.

“But before that happened she used her dowry money and she bought food for the Christians that were hiding in the tunnels under Rome,” Conboy said.

Each year the Swedish Cultural Society of Duluth crowns a 15-year-old girl Lucia.

“I’ve been in the program for 14 years and I’ve been participating for 13 years,” said Emma Bursch, this year’s Lucia.

“It feels so special to be able to do that for my family and to do that for my heritage and just get to represent where I’m from.”

Luciadaggen is a longstanding tradition in the City of Duluth, with Lucia dating as far back as 1948, when real candles were placed in the crown.

Today plastic candles are used, but the light they shine is just as bright.

“The whole point is in the past she used those candles and that light to bring help to people that were in danger,” Conboy said.

Bursch has a special connection to her new title.

“My Great Grandma’s here today and she’s originally from Sweden so it’s kinda been her dream to, to have a granddaughter be the Lucia in the festival.”

The day of Luciadagen includes singing traditional songs, and other Swedish rituals like Pepparkakor.

Everyone in the room is given a small ginger cracker. They hold it in their hands and all together tap it in the center until it breaks, making a wish.

If the cracker breaks into three pieces, their wish is granted.

Meanwhile, the Lucia watches all the fun from her special place upfront.

“‘Is this real?’ That’s what I’m thinking the entire time. I feel like it’s a dream ’cause it’s just one of the most fun days of the entire year for me.

Unfortunately, after being crowned Lucia once, you can’t be crowned again.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do next year. It’s not gonna feel like Christmas without the Sankta Lucia festival,” Bursch said.

But the Spirit of St. Lucia can be achieved with or without the crown.

“It’s kind of fitting this time of, in this season that we are in right now that we need to think of others and we need to bring them light and be helpful,” said Conboy.

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