Mama Lisa's World
International Music & Culture
Sankta Lucia
(Swedish Santa Lucia Song)
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Santa Lucia's Day is celebrated on December 13th in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. It commemorates the life of Santa Lucia, who is also known as Saint Lucy. It's the beginning of the Christmas season in those countries and is a celebration of light – at the time of year when the world is darker.

Sankta Lucia
Santa Lucia
Santa Lucia Song
(Swedish)
Santa Lucia Song
(English)

Sankta Lucia - Swedish Children's Songs - Sweden - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World, Intro Image


Natten går tunga fjät
rund gård och stuva;
kring jord, som sol förlät*,
skuggorna ruva.
Då i vårt mörka hus,
stiger med tända ljus,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Natten går stor och stum
nu hörs dess vingar
i alla tysta rum
sus som av vingar.
Se, på vår tröskel står
vitklädd med ljus i hår
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Mörkret ska flykta snart
ur jordens dalar
så hon ett underbart
ord till oss talar.
Dagen ska åter ny
stiga ur rosig sky
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent,
Now hear its gentle wings,
In every room so hushed,
Whispering like wings.
Look, at our threshold stands,
White-clad with light in her hair,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon,
From earth's valleys.
So she speaks
Wonderful words to us:
A new day will rise again
From the rosy sky…
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
 
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You can hear the tune to this song in the mp3 below.
 
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Notes

*Gunnat wrote from Sweden about the 3rd line: "We sang 'förgät' (forget) at school as it made more sense to us than 'förlät'." The old meaning of "förlät" was "leave", which is what it means in this song. "Förlät" is the word "officially" used in this version of the song [which was written by Arvid Rosén and was published in the book "Sånger för skolan"(Songs for School)].

*****

St. Lucy was born in Syracuse, Sicily around 283 and died in 303 AD. The myth is that her parents wanted her to marry a man who she didn't want to marry. She wanted to devote her life to helping the poor. In protest against the marriage, she poked out her eyes and put them on a platter and sent them to the man. The legend is that her eyes were miraculously restored by God.

It's said that Saint Lucia blinded herself on the shortest, darkest day of the year, which is the Winter Solstice. Under the old Julian calendar, that day was December 13th. That's how St. Lucia's day came to be celebrated on the 13th. (Now, in the northern hemisphere, the Winter Solstice falls on the 21st or the 22nd.)

In Sweden, and other Scandinavian countries, Santa Lucia Day is seen as being the beginning of the Christmas season. It starts the Twelve Days of Christmas.

*****

Rob Nygren sent this rhyming, singable translation:

Night's heavy footprints lie
'Round farm and toil
Spirits shall haunt the world
Shadows on soil
In our dark house at night
Rising with candles bright
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

Night's full of black and gloom
Now hear her swing
Through all our darkened rooms
On her sweet wings
At our door clad in white
Wearing a crown of light
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

Darkness would fain out flee
From valleys deep
Marvelous words to us
We hear her speak
New day again shall rise
Coming with rosy skies
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.

Comments

The tradition on Santa Lucia Day is for the oldest girl in the family to dress in a white robe with a red sash and wear a crown of candles and lingonberry leaves (lingonberries are popular berries in Sweden). She's supposed to be dressed as St. Lucia. The other girls dress in white with silver crowns. The boys wear pointed silver hats and carry wands with stars on them. They're called stjärngossar (star boys). Some kids dress up as tomtar which are like gnomes.

On the morning of Santa Lucia, the children in the family will often wake their parents with a breakfast of Lussekatter (a special St. Lucia bun made with saffron), ginger cookies, coffee and glögg (hot spiced wine). The kids will be dressed in their special Santa Lucia costumes and they'll sing Santa Lucia songs.

Throughout the day girls will be dressed as Santa Lucia in schools, malls, churches and other public places singing and handing out ginger cookies. There are also Luciatags – St. Lucia processions in which the children dress in their white costumes and sing St. Lucia Day songs.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Edward M. Gawlinski for contributing this song, for the midi music and the score. Translated by Mama Lisa. 2nd translation by Rob Nygren.

MP3: His Majesty's Irish Guards Band

Photo: Santa Lucia Festival from 1937 in Stockholm.

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