“Att lussa”, a verb for a secular tradition

As Christmas time approaches, here in Sweden the 13th December of every year is time for Lucia celebrations, related to the Italian Sicilian Lucia marthyr in 304 A.D., even though of unknown origins for many Swedes – or better, the path Lucia took from Italy to be part of a Swedish tradition is not really well known by many people in Europe yet. Let’s take it in an easy way, Lucia here is meant to bring light – Saint Lucia was, and still is, after all the saint protector of blind people – and way before the day which for some centuries ago was supposed to be the shortest of the year, almost every window is decorated by an advent candlestick (advent ljustake), reminding the Lucia parade taking time on the 13th. Therefore on the 13th you will do Lucia, and since in Sweden they like to make verbs starting from whatever more or less English word you may wonder of – see googla, luncha, fota, joina – you will “lussa”

So, what is all this fancy thing about?

Luciatåg (the Lucia train!?) is a procession/parade which manifests one of the basic cultural aspects of Sweden, not to forget one of the most struggling – but also cozy – aspects of living in Sweden. Winter, cold, dark, lights and sweet things to eat.

Lucia celebration contains and tries to solve the all of them, with people gathering in the early morning at working places, schools and universities, at crazy times if one thinks about the darkness covering Sweden in this time of the year. A procession of white gowns-dressed people – and with people I make no exceptions, Sweden is a land for gender equality and so it be! both women and men are gonna wear it – is gonna follow Lucia, a girl wearing a crown with candles. Possibly these should be real so that the panic of fellign down during the procession, and put the all building on fire gets higher on this day of joy! Oh I forgot, people wearing long white hats with golden stars on and holding a stick with a star on. Then, in the procession for children, ginger bread biscuits and Santa Claus costumes are also included!

With the university choir MASK at Malmö university we had Lucia both yesterday and today, as a  start of our concert-season since the choir was stopping for a while before this semester. But singing both at a company here in Malmö yesterday morning and at an old people house gave us the energy and hope for next semester!

As I said, Lucia covers part of the Swedish reality you may experience when living here, because of course, if there is not a big Swedish tradition which is not celebrated properly, then there is no celebration without a special cake, and for this I may advice you to check a recipe of lussekatter/lussebullar (here for Swedish reader and here for an English version), even if maybe a bit late for this year’s Lucia celebration. But surely you will still be able to smell saffron wherever you walk through cities in Sweden or buy them in the closest Pressbyrån.

Sankta Lucia started to be very important to me, underlining how culture can be shapeable, ever changing and not only to be acquired during one’s childhood. For some reasons certain things do acquire an importance personal to each of us. For me Lucia – celebrated the first time three years ago, but better last year with the university choir in Karlstad – puts together my passion for singing, the memory of the start of my life here in Sweden, especially in Karlstad, and a lot of more memories, which are part of something which I am definitely really missing every day!

I leave you with the one version I prefer of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, started to sing while we were on the bus back from our Lucia singing this evening, and with a French song which I listened to at least a twenty times so far (just today!).

Looking for other intresting readings? Check thelocal.se article and the official Sweden page sweden.se

Värmland is waiting for me after a presentation at university tomorrow, and before another to be given on Tuesday, then Italy will come together with Sun, family, friends and food!

I will see you soon!

Funny curious musical findings

I start with saying what I told about Sweds already more than once…that they love Italy, in every dimension. Surely sun, food and wine are the most appreciated things. The first one easily remarked by someone during the choir camp yesterday, something like – “we go to Italy during winter to gain energies, I do not know why we have not yet learnt to hibernate as many animals do”.

Talking about food, Italy is definitely admired for pasta, pizza, and whatever can be called “Italian” going from the add of some oregano to a squeeze of tomato sauce. I am definitely not against food experiments since I love to prepare food and eat and try new things and whatever, but sometimes homesickness is on the way when hearing the “Italian” be used too often.

Speaking wine – Systembolaget surely has a 50% or more of the total amount of wines coming from Italy. If you ask recommendation they would probably recommend you an Italian wine – many Swedes I know really do not have a wide knowledge about wines characteristics, and I am not blaming anyone, since I myself do not have any clue about how a wine can taste differently from one another!

(If you want to put all these things together and really try to understand the feeling – almost one of repressed cultural belonging that Swedish people have towards Italy – you should definitely watch the film Små Citroner Gula. I finished to watch it with a girl from the choir some hours ago, and I will never be tired of it!)

…and then the music. I do not know how it has been possible to cope and translate – mostly the melody was taken – from Italian as many songs as it happened here in Sweden without making everyone aware that those songs actually had an Italian origin. Three years ago I sat in the car of my host-family listening a song from Veronica Maggio who is one of the most famous singers in Sweden, half Italian from father side and half Swedish. Just the song they send on the radio that time was Välkommen in.

Trying to fully immerse in the text and try to understand as much as possible, all of a sudden she started to speak Italian – “Oh mare nero oh mare nero oh mare nero”. These words are from an Italian song from the singer Lucio Battisti – one of them who made the history of music in Italy – in 1971. This is just a little example since just some words are used and it may be fun to know which the original actually is.

Going on…

but there is one which is probably one of the most know Swedish songs called Var ska vi sova i natt (Where should we sleep tonight) which is a song from 1982, just a year after the original “Sarà perché ti amo” was released. Swedish peopel do love Italy and they are more than fast to show it!

And to finish…another very famous artist part of the Italian music culture, was Adriano Celentano who started to sing when he was younger than eighteen. He wrote this song and sang it in 1966.

And one year later Sweden got another smash music example…

I definitely find this interesting, fun and a bit funny. There are surely more examples than these ones and surely between a lot of countries and languages which takes place! And it is so interesting to see hoeunfortunately now, for just some words taken from another song, or maybe two or three tones in a sequence someone is called for plagiarism, while the sharing and diffusion should be way more promoted than it actually is!

I leave you with a pair of pieces I heard in the weekend..goodnight!


Got to sing this one in the choir while the conductor was playing by piano and we were free to sing whatever we felt comfortable with. The result was a 20 voices compainment to a very know piece, and a perfect self confidence and team building experiment for a choir.