Boys blocked from bearing ‘girls-only’ Lucia crown

While generally supportive of equality between the sexes, Swedes still resist tampering with the Lucia holiday tradition which stipulates only girls should bear a candle-lit crown on December 13th.

Boys blocked from bearing 'girls-only' Lucia crown

Sweden’s Lucia celebrations, which honour the Catholic Saint Lucy, rival Christmas in terms of the significance Swede’s place on the holiday.

Tradition dictates that schools around the country mark the occasion by picking a girl to don a white robe and place a wreath of candles on her head in order to add a little warmth and light to the darkest time of the year.

Boys are generally relegated to supporting roles in the festivities, usually walking behind the Lucia as stjärngossar (star boys) to complete the entourage.

This year, however, a few schools in Sweden attempted to buck tradition by nominating a boy as the school’s Lucia.

The results demonstrate that limits in Sweden still exist when calls for gender equity clash with time honoured holiday traditions.

In Karlstad in central Sweden, students at Lillerud high school nominated one of their male classmates following lobbying by the student council.

“Issues of equality are always relevant. It’s important to bring it up in every instance,” said student council member Jonas Kerven to the Nya Wermlands-Tidningen newspaper.

But the council’s efforts to bring equality to the Lucia contest ended prematurely after the male candidate quit following a barrage of harassing emails and internet forum posts in which he was called “perverse” and “an idiot”.

The path to claiming the Lucia crown also proved difficult for Freddy Karlberg, a student in Motala in south central Sweden.

Even though he received the most votes in his school’s Lucia nomination, principal Birgitta Wessman declared the girl who came in second place the winner, snatching the Lucia title which had seemed to be in Karlberg’s grasp.

“It has nothing to do with gender,” she told the Motala och Vadstena Tidning newspaper, explaining that the school had simply decided to celebrate Lucia in a traditional fashion.

Karlberg questioned why the school had let him run in the first place if his Lucia candidacy was doomed from the start.

Wessman responded by calling his candidacy a breakdown in “adult responsibility” and that she would have stopped Karlberg from running had she known soon enough.

But for Johan Gustafsson, a high school student from Jönköping in central Sweden, the quest for Lucia glory ended with an uneasy compromise in which both Gustafsson and a female classmate, Veronica Ahlund, were allowed to have Lucia’s crown of candles placed on their heads.

“I wanted to do something that people will remember me for,” said Gustafsson to the Metro newspaper.

Gustafsson hopes his school’s example will inspire others around the country to take a fresh look at the old traditions associated with Lucia celebrations in Sweden.

“It’s a disgrace that some schools don’t let guys be Lucia. Why couldn’t Lucia be a guy?” he said.

But even Gustafsson’s co-winner still has a hard time accepting her fellow male Lucia.

“I prefer a traditional Lucia, the real Lucia was in fact a woman,” she told Metro, adding that, in the end, she had accepted sharing the Lucia crown with Gustafsson.


Stockholm Pride is a little different this year: here’s what you need to know 

This week marks the beginning of Pride festivities in the Swedish capital. The tickets sold out immediately, for the partly in-person, partly digital events. 

Pride parade 2019
There won't be a Pride parade like the one in 2019 on the streets of Stockholm this year. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

You might have noticed rainbow flags popping up on major buildings in Stockholm, and on buses and trams. Sweden has more Pride festivals per capita than any other country and is the largest Pride celebration in the Nordic region, but the Stockholm event is by far the biggest.  

The Pride Parade, which usually attracts around 50,000 participants in a normal year, will be broadcast digitally from Södra Teatern on August 7th on Stockholm Pride’s website and social media. The two-hour broadcast will be led by tenor and debater Rickard Söderberg.

The two major venues of the festival are Pride House, located this year at the Clarion Hotel Stockholm at Skanstull in Södermalm, and Pride Stage, which is at Södra Teatern near Slussen.

“We are super happy with the layout and think it feels good for us as an organisation to slowly return to normal. There are so many who have longed for it,” chairperson of Stockholm Pride, Vix Herjeryd, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Tickets are required for all indoor events at Södra Teatern to limit the number of people indoors according to pandemic restrictions. But the entire stage programme will also be streamed on a big screen open air on Mosebacketerassen, which doesn’t require a ticket.  

You can read more about this year’s Pride programme on the Stockholm Pride website (in Swedish).