Sweden’s Light Festival Hits Jakarta

In Scandinavian countries, people celebrate another festival of lights that brightens up the long, cold winter months — St. Lucia Day.
    “In Sweden it’s a big festival. We have St. Lucia processions everywhere in the country,” Swedish Ambassador to Indonesia Ann Marie Bolin Pennegard said during a St. Lucia Day celebration at her residence in Jakarta on Friday evening.
    The event was attended by several ambassadors, the local Swedish community and friends of Sweden in Indonesia.
    Sweden marks St. Lucia Day every Dec. 13, exactly 12 days before Christmas. But because Dec. 13 fell on a Saturday, the embassy chose to celebrate the festival on the Friday.
    In Sweden, The Jakarta Post observed St. Lucia processions being held at every important public event or party in the month of December. At this time of the year, days are much shorter and the nights longer.
    Wearing a white dress and a crown of candles, St. Lucia and her entourage of a dozen or more men and women in white robes carrying candles, appears at the celebration. They then sing four or five songs, including Christmas songs, and leave once again in a procession.
    Thomas Ohlson, professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University in Sweden, says the real Lucia was an Italian Christian who came to Sweden in the fourth century A.D. Killed by a man who loved her, she has since become a saint, martyr and heroine.
    “Lucia was well-known for her kindness and love. She became a part of our culture,” Ohlson said while introducing the university’s St. Lucia team to a group of international participants at a seminar at Uppsala Castle.
    Most of the girls who play the part of Lucia now no longer use real candles because of the risk of burning their hair. Instead, they now use battery-operated candles.
    On St. Lucia Day, a special variety of Swedish food and drinks is served up. Among them, the lussekatter, delicious saffron buns also known as St. Lucia buns, and spicy gingerbread biscuits are favorite food items on the day.
    Besides Sweden, other countries that celebrate St. Lucia Day include Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Malta, Italy, Estonia, Bosnia, Croatia and parts of the U.S., especially where people of Scandinavian descent live.
    And thanks to the Swedish Embassy, Jakarta is now among the places that celebrate the Swedish festival of lights.

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