Saint Lucy celebrations and lyrics


A few minutes ago I came back home after having been out in Folkets Park/The People’s Park listening to a choir of youngsters singing Saint Lucy songs and Christmas Carrols. Each year the city elects a new young woman to become this year’s Saint Lucy, the Queen of Light to perform on December 13th. Most schools in Sweden also have their Saint Lucies followed by a group of maids with candles in their hands and also a few star boys. Sometimes also Christmas gnomes and ginger bread men, even though these last ones seem to have become controversial the last two years. Already this morning at seven o’ clock the one who wanted could watch a Saint Lucy concert for 30-60 minutes on TV broadcasted from a church in the country. It’s a tradition we have each year. During the day on December 13th kindergardens, primary-, lower- and upper secondary schools, working offices, homes for elderly people, stages on squares and malls are visited by groups of small children, teenagers or young adults who sing these songs. The girl or woman who is acting Saint Lucy always wears a crown with candles, a long white dress, and a red ribbon around her waist, which symbolizes both life and the blood which was spilled when the real Lucia of Syracuse on Sicily was killed in 304 A.D. The maids surrounding her use to have glittering diadems in their hair, white dresses too and ribbons of glitter around their waists. The Star boys often, but not always, wear a pointy hat and carry a star each. The first nationalised and standardized Saint Lucy celebration was held as late as 1927 in Stockholm, even though variations of it had been going on, at least in Western Sweden, since the 1600’s and 1700’s. In Church Saint Lucy was commemorated all through the Middle Ages, ever since what would become Sweden turned into a Christian country 1000 years ago.

Since the countries in Scandinavia tend to be quite dark and cold in winter time the idea of celebrating the light and the saint of light, Lucy, has become a natural phenomenon here in Sweden, and even today, what always is highlighted in speeches, songs and thoughts during the Saint Lucy celebrations is the light in our souls, kindness, peace in oppostion of wars, persecution and other kinds of evil. I had read on the Internet about where this year’s concert here in Malmoe would be, at least the official one. I came to Folkets Park a few minutes before seven, and a few minutes later this year’s Saint Lucy arrived in a carriage drawn by horses. After the first one two more came. Then Lucy’s entourage came walking with lit candles, and also school children carrying torches. One had put up microphones on  a lower roof of the building Moriska Paviljongen/The Moor Pavillon, originally built for the Baltic Exhibition in 1914.





Saint Lucy was also given a necklace as a gift from Malmoe Municipality during the concert, and the youth choir sang beautifully. Not all choirs do, but these youngsters had good voices and singing technique. One of the most famous songs sung on December 13th is a melody from Italy. The original tune from the early 1800’s is a song where a fisherman in the city of Naples is singing about the beauty of the harbour and especially the peninsula and quarters called Santa Lucia. That song was in 1849 written down and translated from Napoli diallect into ordinary Italian by Teodoro Coltran (1827-1871). Coltran called the tune Barcarolla when he published it. One of the phrases from the original lyrics says: “Tu sei l’impero dell’armonia, Santa Lucia”/You are the realm of harmony, Santa Lucia”. A few years later the Swede Gunnar Wennerberg was in Rome in 1852 when he came across this song which he fell in love with. He took it back to Sweden and at the turn of the last century it was sung in different Swedish versions. When the Saint Lucy celebrations spread over Sweden in the late 1920’s, and became formalized this song became popular again. This time the lyrics in Swedish became more connected to the saint and the celebration in Sweden. Two Swedish lyrics on the same Italian tune have become part of the Swedish song treasure on December 13th. One was written by Sigrid Elimblad and called “Sankta Lucia, ljusklara hägring”/Saint Lucy, bright mirrage”. The other one, which also introduced tonight’s concert is called “Natten går tunga fjät” written by Arvid Rosén in 1928. Earlier this afternoon I took the Swedish lyrics and made an English interpretation of it. Since the lyrics are in rhyme I had to make small alterations to both keep the rhyme and the same rhythm. Here I now give you first Rosén’s Swedish lyrics of “Natten går tunga fjät”, and below that my English interpretation of the song titled “The night is moving heavily”.

Natten går tunga fjät, runt gård och stuva.

Kring jord som sol’n förlät, skuggorna ruva.

Då i vårt mörka hus, stiger med tända ljus

Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Natten var stor och stum, nu, hör det svingar

i alla tysta rum, sus som av vingar.

Se på vår tröskel står, vitklädd med ljus i hår,

Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Mörkret skall flykta snart, ur jordens dalar.

Så hon ett underbart ord till oss talar.

Dagen skall åter ny, stiga ur rosig sky.

Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.


The nigth is moving heavily.

The night is moving heavily, round farm and cabbin,

round soil which sun neglects, shadows are fallin’.

Then with lit candle lights, striding through darkness,

Saint Lucy, oh hail Saint Lucy.

The night was grand and mute, now hear the silence,

in all the quiet rooms, sounds of winged brilliance.

Behold on threshold fair, whitedressed with lights in hair,

Saint Lucy, oh hail Saint Lucy.

Darkness will soon despair, fly from our valleys,

so she might speak a word which for us tallies.

Day will soon come anew, light skies shine for us too.

Saint Lucy, oh hail Saint Lucy.

With this song I wish you a good night and a pleasant weekend. Enjoy!!

Anders Moberg, December 13th 2013



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