A Singaporean’s First Lucia

It would be a first time for me too, an ignorant Singaporean new to this Swedish tradition. Sitting in the church was already nerve-wrecking for me as the seats began to fill up with Swedes. Families greeted each other warmly with pecks on the cheeks and shared stories about their children who were bouncing all over the place like the little angels that they were. Honestly, the only thing I knew about Lucia at that point, was that she had her eyes gouged out and placed on a golden plate (Ouch).

When the church filled up, I almost believed I was in a different country, surrounded by a sea of blonde and even blonder heads. That was until I spotted a few other Chinese in the crowd who were there to experience a traditional Swedish celebration; it was nice knowing that they were present to learn a completely different culture.

Lucia started with a speech by Sven Björkman, the Chairman of the Church Committee, giving his thanks to the Orchard Presbyterian Church for allowing the community to host Lucia within the premises. The Orchard Presbyterian is one of the oldest churches in Singapore that was founded in 1856 to minister to the local Scots business community.

Ambassador Pär Ahlberger later read a verse from the bible, Bibellasning ur Jesaja 9:2-7 before Reverend Katarina took over and led the church on singing various hymns.

When the lights were turned off, I looked around in anticipation. The moment Lucia entered, I was completely blown away by the sight of the children and adults, dressed in white gowns, carrying candles and basking in the warm glow radiated by the flames. Yes, the memory of it all certainly brings out the poet in me.

The choir itself was simply magic on its own. Though I do not understand a word of Swedish, the tunes and voices were enough to make me sway, the kids too seemed mesmerized by the whole sight and sounds.

A friend of mine, Hanna Sandh commented that during the day, although she knew that she would be attending Lucia the same evening, she did not feel the same anticipation in Singapore as she normally would in Sweden. That was until she entered the church and the service began.

“The church really helped in adding some authenticity to whole atmosphere,” she said, “When the night ended, I had to remind myself that I was in Singapore and not back home. Everything felt almost like home.”

“It was a very beautiful Lucia arranged by the Church and the Swedish community in Singapore.” says Ambassador Pär Ahlberger, “My children, Jacob and Louise, who are nine and seven years old respectively, joined the Lucia this year wich made it even more exciting
for me and my wife. I also note that we had Singaporeans among us at the Lucia and we are very happy to share our traditions!”

The night ended on a beautiful note, no pun intended, never would I have imagined experiencing another country’s custom in my own and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it, although I did leave the church with a perplexing thought: How would ‘Lucia’ get the candle wax out of her hair?

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