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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

13 December - St Lucia's Day


St Lucia's Day - artwork by Michael Hague


In the countries of the north, where winter darkness held longest, people's yearning for light found focus on the feast day of St Lucia of Sicily - her very name, they thought, meant light. 

Early calendars marked December 13th as the winter solstice.  Later when the date of the solstice was changed to the 21st and the calendars reformed, the feast of Lucia was retained and continued to mark the beginning of Christmas in Sweden and Norway.

Older folk said on the eve of the day that Lucia herself might be seen, skimming across the snowfields and frozen lakes, a crown of light upon her hair.

In towns, torchlight processions were held to summon back the light.  The daughters of each house rose in the early dark - dressed in white, crowned with wreaths of lingonberry or holly and blazing candles - they would take food and fire to their sleeping elders, singing all the while to mark the morning of St Lucia's Day. 





Usually in winter I walk a different route to work from the station, meandering around Trinity College instead of taking my normal stroll through the park.  I always assumed the park would be closed in winter, so was surprised this year to find the gates open, even though it is still dark.




I've continued walking though the park because 'my' swan family are still together.  Usually the cygnets disappear quite early in the season, but this year is different and they appear like ghostly shadows out of the gloom - swimming towards me to say 'hello'!  (I love the cheeping noises the young swans still make.)  As you can see it is now too dark to photograph them successfully, even with a flash.

Last week I realised something.  Five out of the six cygnets that I originally photographed survived.  That means there are two adults and five adolescents - or seven swans a'swimming - just like in the Christmas carol!  




The park has a beauty all of its own at this time if year.  I love the way the branches with their delicate tracery are silhouetted against the early morning light.  And it was as cold as it looks - yesterday morning when I took this photograph the lake was starting to freeze over!




For anyone interested in this sort of thing - today is 12/12/12 and there are 12 days to go before Christmas. In my lifetime there won't be another day when all the digits are the same like this again.



St Lucia taken from 'The Enchanted World - The Book of Christmas' - Brendan Lehane / Time Life Books
Published 1986.   



8 comments:

Tazas y Cuentos said...

Interesting information about Lucía's Day, Sharon. I didn't know it and...I have a daughter called Lucía! I have just told her after reading your post. She will receive greetings tomorrow.
Very nice illustration.
Besos!

GardenofDaisies said...

I remember singing the St Lucia song in elementary school. (We had such a wonderful music teacher! She taught us the best music!) There is a little Swedish town near us that celebrates with a Lucia festival every year.
YAY! Seven Swans still swimming! Will the pond completely freeze, or will there be enough open water for the swans to stay through the winter?

Victoria Stitch said...

Hi Sharon! No worries about the name- I didn't notice anyway. Besides, it's not like I make it very clear to anyone, I'm happy to be called either!

This is a lovely atmospheric post. I especially like the last photo with all the spindly trees. They look almost like they are reflected in the water.

I knew it was 12/12/12 yesterday but didn't twig that it was also 12 days to christmas too! thanks for pointing that out. Also like the fact that you have 6 swans a swimming!

Hope you're having a festive season- sounds like you are!

CraveCute said...

I love the whole post, St. Lucia is very much celebrated here in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, because of all the Scandinavians. Just a note - 7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments ... love that you have them (swans) so close! What a wonderful Christmas gift!

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

7 Swans a Swimming! Love it! I have always been a fan of St. Lucia Day. I am Swedish and grew up singing all the songs. :) Great post!

Terence donnelly said...

I sprayed bananas in St Lucia, never knew there was a ST Lucia,I agree with Victoria Stitch your post creates a atmosphere of its own

Agman.

Donna Yates said...

Another lovely post and so informative. My luck, I'd trip while wearing hollies and candles. Thank you for this post and all the lovely pictures.

Barbara said...

So happy to see another picture of the seven swans a'swimming - I will miss seeing them while you are away.

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