Santa Lucia is taken very seriously in Sweden. I learned about it from Swedish friends when I was in my mid teens. At that time not many people in Norway celebrated the day like they are today. Back then I was working at a home decor store in downtown Oslo called Vakre Hjem. I worked there during the Christmas holiday and summer vacations. The wife who was Swedish was an interior designer and her Norwegian husband an architect and they sold some of the most beautiful handwoven fabrics, table ware and decor items you could imagine, coming from all over Scandinavia. It was here I bought one of the first Marimekko dresses that came for sale in Oslo.
On the first Saturday in early December we would gather as soon as the doors closed to customers at 2 pm and would heave to and decorate the store with beautiful and enticing displays. These displays included special Christmas items and also my mother’s Christmas nisse (santa) and angels together with what was normally available. My job was to decorate the three tiny windows.
On Saturday evening late as we were finishing the work, someone would run out to the allnight street kitchen to buy “lapskaus“, a hearty stew, with meat, vegetables and potatoes. Some beer and a bottle of aquavit was already cooling. Others set a long table using the beautiful tableware from the store and when all was ready we sat down to a late night dinner (maybe 11 pm) and a glass. I just loved the years I worked there for these wonderful people and have many fond memories.
The couple also celebrated Santa Lucia and on the 13th of December, whichever day of the week it fell on we were all invited to a 6 am breakfast of mulled wine and saffron buns, (lussekatter). It was by then very cold outside. Today Santa Lucia celebration is much more broadly recognized. Of course by now the nisse and his helpers are also all busy at work getting ready for Christmas eve. Santa starts in Europe in the evening where he comes knocking on the doors of all the little boys and girls and then flies over the rest of the world with this sleigh and reindeer.