• Sweden edition
 
'Angels have nothing to do with Christmas in Sweden'

'Angels have nothing to do with Christmas in Sweden'

Published: 12 Dec 2012 15:32 GMT+01:00
Updated: 12 Dec 2012 15:32 GMT+01:00

On December 13th, Sweden celebrates Saint Lucia Day.

The Swedes borrowed this Christmas figure from the Italians then reworked her story, grinding, blending, and stuffing it into a Swedish sausage casing that resulted in the unique experience that became Sweden’s Saint Lucia.

Traditionally, on the morning of Saint 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 Saint Lucia song.

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

All schools in Sweden also host Saint Lucia pageants. Celebrating the holiday and reflecting the need for light and song at the darkest time of year, these events are more like processions than beauty pageants.

However, the selection of Lucia can take on beauty pageant qualities.

Judges consider looks and height, but singing ability, however, remains a crucial factor.

These Lucia pageants begin in daycare and continue up into high school. The daycare versions permit multiple Lucias, and 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 in July.

This daycare'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 dominant, take-charge, I-always-want-to-decide, child would pick Saint Lucia.

However she chose to be an angel.

Unfortunately, her teachers denied her wish.

When she asked 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, there was Saint Lucia herself, the martyred Sicilian Catholic saint who wears a white robe, a crown of candles, and a red sash representing Lucia’s spilt blood.

Other options included being a handmaiden for Lucia, the classic elf, or a gingerbread boy, where kids don brown pajamas with white trim and berets fashioned to look like little gingerbread men.

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

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

But for a uniquely Swedish experience, they also offered the star boy, who dress in white robes, wear star-studded dunce hats,

This stylish Ku-Klux-Klan-meets-Harry-Potter character just screams Christmas, and is completed with a stick topped with a gold star.

Despite the name, girls may portray this character (however star boy gender reassignment applications must be submitted to the Swedish Christmas Culture Board no later than three weeks prior to Christmas).

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

Although considering the school’s tradition included visiting a retirement home, the rejection of my daughter's top choice of an angel can be interpreted as stemming from 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.”

And traumatizing the children with a mass cardiac arrest flash mob has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas in Sweden.

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

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

“Mrs. Claus?” I reply.

“Yeah, I’m gonna be her,” explained my daughter, a natural default choice for a dominant child.

If my gender excludes me from being Santa then I’ll be his wife. If I can’t be the boss of Christmas then I’ll be the boss of the boss!

Close enough.

So back to her daycare's Saint Lucia Pageant Costume Committee she went...and was again summarily denied.

Even though the pageant includes Santa’s helpers and Santa himself arrives after the procession to give out gifts, Mrs. Claus 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. This choice makes sense on every level particularly if you enjoy leading, directing, and being the centre of attention.

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 the 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.

Steven Karwoski lives in Malmö with his wife and daughter. He writes about living and working in Sweden and the country's obvious and not-so-obvious oddities.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

18:21 December 12, 2012 by KingArthur
@Steven Karwoski

Man, you made my day. You must have a great life with such a daughter.

That and your writting style made me laugh out loud so hard that my wife (swedish) ask what was going on...

I showed her you´re storry, and well she was amuzed :)

Thank you for a great laugh

Peter (Dutch)
09:34 December 13, 2012 by Mies
Hi Steven,

I´m so curious - what did your little daughter end up as?
10:13 December 13, 2012 by galexe
This is bullshit! A journalist could lie for popularity.
09:17 December 14, 2012 by Peter Thomas
You seem to have missed the point of celebrating Lucia. It is not really related to Christmas. Saint Lucia is, as the name suggests, a Christian saint. Most of the costumes worn by children during this celebration are, somewhat, related to the story of St Lucia. It is really only happen-stance that it is near to Christmas, though Christmas is obviously also a major Christian celebration.
13:23 December 14, 2012 by Lowlin
As a Swede, I think they should have allowed her to be Santa's wife. On a little girl she wouldn't have stuck out as that different from Santa's helpers. On the other angels and Jesus Christ would not have fit in however. While of course having Christian roots. The modern day Lucia is a purely cultural event, not a religious one. Just as the Swedish Lucia would be all wrong to have in the American cultural event of the Mall Santa.

Still though, a fun article, always interesting to hear the international perspective. :)
16:09 December 14, 2012 by Sheila Craig
I had a very similar experience when I tried to get some religious Christmas cards. I tried all the shops that sell cards In Västerås. One assistant said 'but people like the pretty ones' another said 'Oh no you will not get cards like that in Sweden'. Do they actually know why they are celebrating?
17:18 December 14, 2012 by Migga
A very funny article! It`s good to be able to laugh at oneself, even through the eyes of a foreigner. But one thing should be cleared up for the writer and the people who comment here. The Swedes had ancient pagan traditions before it was turned into Christmas. In swedish it`s Jul, which translates into Yule, and comes from the word Julblot or Midvinterblot. It was a time when the Swedes celebrated the gods and held a feast. Same with Lucia, it was the darkest day of the year so the Swedes honored it by celebrating the light and having a feast. When christianity arrived that changed. The Swedes didn`t borrow anything, Jesus birth and the saint Lucia was forced upon them by the church. Hopefully religion can be faced out more and let the old tradition where one gather for a feast be the reason why we celebrate Lussi or Yule.
20:34 December 14, 2012 by dogtom
Well said Migga...

In ya face "Sheila Craig"!!!! There's no place for religion at Xmas...
22:00 December 14, 2012 by Stuart Parsons
Oh my my. Please good people of Sweden. It is clearly established by the holy texts of the one TRUE religion, you know Islam the Religion of Peace, that the Mighty Mythical Allah made all the angels from the purest light. He also made jinn from the purest smokeless flame of fire.

To suggest that angels are Christian is blasphemy. I fear the Mighty Mythical Allah will be raining down fire and brimstone upon Sweden, to be followed by the usual famine and pestilence.
17:08 December 15, 2012 by aborre
Good point Migga. One can only hope that soon the old peaceful tradition that existed before the horror of Christianity descended will become the norm. Then we can all gather for a feast and make an Olof Trätälja of some unpopular figure, or gather at Uppsala and cull the herd of male offspring.
19:21 December 24, 2012 by Swedentalk
Lucia is higly Christmas-related.
Today's headlines
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Photo: TT

Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains

Torrential rains in western Sweden have left some towns submersed as water levels have risen to 1.5 metres above normal for the season with forecasts indicating that is worse to come. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund
Photo: TT

Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund

Sweden has offered a new sizeable contribution to the fund set up by UN chief Ban K-moon to fight the Ebola outbreak. READ  

Society
'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme
Photo: Lars-Göran Thuresson/Älgriket

'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme

The Swedish hunting association runs a project to encourage young asylum-seekers to learn about hunting, a move which has proved controversial among some far right groups. READ  

Business & Money
American sales squeeze Ericsson profits
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg presents the third-quarter earnings report at the company's headquarters in Kista. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

American sales squeeze Ericsson profits

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson reported a decline in net profit in the third quarter despite an increase in sales, boosted by business in emerging markets. READ  

Interview
'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar

'Too many concerts feel the same'

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden calls off suspect submarine search
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden calls off suspect submarine search

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. The armed forces said they remained convinced foreign underwater activity had taken place but had not identified an intruder. READ  

Business & Money
US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks
Ed Carbaugh prepares to install parts on a truck engine on an assembly line at Volvo Trucks' powertrain manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2014. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, said Friday it saw a spike in profits in the third quarter, boosted by thriving sales in the US and Japanese markets. READ  

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery
Cigarettes and beer photo: Shutterstock

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery

Inspectors who were sent to shut down a doctor’s surgery in Gothenburg were physically attacked and fled the premises to get help from the police. READ  

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water
A Swede loads a car with alcohol in northern Germany. File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water

Swedish police say they will pay a man 16,000 kronor ($2,200) in damages after much of the alcohol they confiscated from him was stolen, while many of the bottles they returned were filled with water. READ  

Diplomacy
US to get first female ambassador in Sweden
File photo: Athena Center for Leadership Studies

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced it was nominating the Iranian-American ex-investment banker Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
Blog updates

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 

24 October

Is darkness weather? (Blogweiser) »

"I try very hard not to talk about the weather. This has come after a decade..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

985
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN