Today on the 13:th of December we celebrate Lucia in Sweden (Saint Lucy’s Day in English). All over Scandinavia this date is associated with the longest night of the year (and consequencely the shortest day), since it’s coinciding with Winter Solstice. It is said that to vividly celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day will help one live the long winter days with enough light.
Lucia is a major feast day in Scandinavia, Sankta Lucia is represented as a lady in a white dress (a symbol of a Christian’s white baptismal robe) and red sash (symbolizing the blood of her martyrdom) with a crown or wreath of candles on her head. In Norway, Sweden and Swedish-speaking regions of Finland, as songs are sung, girls dressed as Saint Lucy carry cookies and saffron buns in procession, which “symbolizes bringing the light of Christianity throughout world darkness”. Nowadays Sweden are a rather secular society and for most people it doesn’t hold a religious significance but are rather a light festival where we celebrate the light in the darkness, since it is in fact the darkest time of the year and we are waiting for the (day)light to return to our northerly regions.
In both Protestant and Catholic churches, boys participate in the procession as well, playing different roles associated with Christmas. Fact is that in the 1800’s it was only men that appeared as Lucia. The modern Lucia tradition first started among the Swedish universities where female students wheren’t allowed at that time. Nowadays there are some controversy over males as Lucia (amongst narrowminded people), with one male who was elected Lucia at a high school being blocked from performing.
The modern tradition of having public processions in the Swedish cities really took off in 1927 when a newspaper in Stockholm elected an official Lucia for Stockholm that year. The initiative was then followed around the country through the local press. Today most cities in Sweden appoint a Lucia every year. Schools elect a Lucia and her maids among the students and a national Lucia is elected on national television from regional winners. The regional Lucias will visit shopping malls, old people’s homes and churches, singing and handing out gingernut cookies (pepparkakor). Guinness World Records has noted the Lucia procession in Ericsson Globe in Stockholm as the largest in the world, with 1200 participants from Adolf Fredrik’s Music School, Stockholms Musikgymnasium and Stockholms läns Blåsarsymfoniker.
Devotion to Saint Lucy is also practiced in the Italian regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, in the north of the country, and Sicily, in the south, as well as in the Croatian coastal region of Dalmatia.
This years Lucia is oin a friday, which happens to coincide with another phenomena, Friday 13:th. I don’t think many in Sweden will think about this when it’s Lucia. :)
As you might have heard. Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year – for example, in 2015, the 13th fell on a Friday in February, March, and November. 2017 through 2020 will all have two Friday the 13ths, and the years 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence each.
On a side note, a Friday the 13th occurs only during a month that begins on a Sunday.
The irrational fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia”; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called , from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. “It’s been estimated that [US]$800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day”. Despite this, representatives for both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines (the latter now merged into United Airlines) have stated that their airlines do not suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays.
In Finland, a consortium of governmental and nongovernmental organizations led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health promotes the National Accident Day (kansallinen tapaturmapäivä) to raise awareness about automotive safety, which always falls on a Friday the 13th. The event is coordinated by the Finnish Red Cross and has been held since 1995.
Studies have disproved any correlation between Friday the 13th and the rate of accidents. On the contrary, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics on 12 June 2008 stated that “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands.
In Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th (and not the 13th) is considered a day of bad luck. The origin of this belief could be traced in the writing of number 17, in Roman numerals: XVII. By moving the “X” one can easily get the word VIXI (“I have lived”, implying death in the present), an omen of bad luck. In fact, in Italy, 13 is generally considered a lucky number. However, due to Americanization, young people consider Friday the 13th unlucky – as well…