A Swede start to Christmas
Other than a crown of battery-operated candles worn bySt. Lucia, an annual festival Sunday reflected Swedish traditions.
Area Swedes kicked off the Christmas season during the 29th annual St. Lucia Festival organized by the Swedish Cultural Heritage Society.
The service at Peace Lutheran Church in Fargo featured a procession of folkloric characters, Swedish hymns and traditional costumes.
Sally Sologuk, a member of the heritage society who emceed the event, said the legend is that Lucia appeared to the Swedes during a great famine.
A white boat appeared with a beautiful young girl in a white gown with a crown of light beams circling her head.
As the vessel touched shore, food and clothing appeared. After the goods were distributed, the boat and the girl mysteriously disappeared, Sologuk said.
Families observe St. Lucia Day on Dec. 13. The oldest girl in the family wears a white gown with a red sash and the crown of candles and serves her family breakfast in bed before dawn.
She represents to her family the coming of light and the beginning of Christmas, Sologuk said.
During Sunday's celebration, a teenage girl portraying St. Lucia led a procession, wearing a white gown and a crown of five candles.
Traditionally she would have worn real candles, but for the past 10 years the heritage society has usedbattery-operated candles to comply with fire code, said Nels Backman, another emcee.
Lucia was followed by several attendants and mythical characters.
There was a Jul Tomte, a household gnome who looks like a tiny Santa Claus. He lives in the barn keeping misfortune away and expects a bowl of rice pudding on Christmas Eve.
Then there was the star boy, a more recent addition to the Swedish Christmas tradition who sings carols and escorts Lucia. He wore a pointy hat and carried a star-tipped wand.
Finally there were the gingerbread boys, who remind people of the traditional ginger cookies, Sologuk said.
Muriel Vincent, who is half Swedish, said she attends the celebration every year.
"It's a celebration, the beginning of the Christmas season," said Vincent, who read scripture in Swedish for the service. "The children are always fun to see."
Sologuk said the annual celebration is a way to pass on Swedish traditions to children. Most of those who attend are descendents of Swedes who settled in the United States in the late 1800s or early 1900s, she said.
One of the highlights of the event is choosing the teenage girl who will portray St. Lucia for the coming year.
The society also names an honorary Lucia and an honorary tomte in recognition of members who have worked hard throughout the year.
Following the service, everyone shared a potluck dinner featuring traditional Swedish goodies.
"If there's food involved, the Swedes are there," Backman said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590