“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!

Of goodbyes, Lucia celebrations and Swedish compliments

I was looking forward to go back and stay over during Christmas…then people started to leave Karlstad after their exchange programs, everyday I sent to and received messages from students to meet one last time before them “leaving soon”, then Lucia celebrations took me much time in the last week and I did not have time to say goodbye, and then a new course started, hundreds pages to read and write…and next Tuesday is the last “party”…I will probably leave it much earlier than I use to, goodbyes are so bad. Especially when you are pretty sure you will not see some people more, or maybe you will have to wait many years before having the chance to.

I am in a bad mood…yesterday though, I had the staff party at the student pub…pizza and a little “julbord” was managed by some students and we really had fun. They left in the morning but I got home at 2.00 ‘cause I really needed to sleep. The cold has arrived and last night on the bike I faced the “nice” -6° and the iced ground…pain near you heart, almost crying eyes, your scarf getting wet and frozen in some minutes…

I am messing up. A lot of things to do before I go back to Italy for the Christmas break. Last Monday I started a new course called Globalization and Culture which is a very short, fast and deep one.

I should actually shut up and cheer, next semester is going to be very exciting and full of things to do (I will tell you about it in some post), but people are more important than yourself, especially when they start to be part of your weeks giving you advices and staying at your side in the toughest moments. The more I stay abroad the tougher it gets when it comes to say goodbye, even though it sounds as it should be the other way. I get deeply used to stay abroad, make it by “my own” but I also learn to build relationship with other, especially foreigners, and this sometimes can make you very sad.

Many students who are leaving are selling or giving away things they do not have place for in the luggage, or that hey just would not need once back in their countries…so I got for free a book in English called “About a boy”…I guess it will be the first book of the year 2016…

I guess it is of common knowledge that Swedish people cannot “flirt”, or at least, said by an Italian, they cannot “court”…I am not talking bad about them, because it is just not in their culture, but sometimes it is just funny. So, two days ago at Bunkern I was talking about this with a Swedish and an Australian friend and the Swedish friend had the wonderful idea to joke about it, trying to “court me the Italian way”…the result was very very funny! One of the things he did was to touch my shoulders, while another one was to tell me few compliments (which is really not that common in Sweden, or at least for what I experienced in fourteen months). And a real Swedish compliment I got was “oh my God you are so funny, you produce so much noise from your mouth for so few things you have to say!!!”.

On Friday I had a very nice and rewarding day. I woke up at 4.00 a.m. because at 6.00 a.m. I had to stay in the Aula Magna at university to gather with the choir before the Lucia celebration at 7,30 a.m.. It was the first time in my life I got up so early, and having lesson after the concert did not help. I got home after class and then got to downtown…because we where going to have a Lucia celebration and a few “Christmas songs” in the Domkyrka… I just found this article telling about us singing in the church, and I am also in the picture, I am so happy for that ^^ Take a look if you want! And here is a video of us singing at Karlstad university on Friday morning 🙂

The Lucia parade (Luciatåg) is a very Swedish traditional event…Saint Lucia originally comes from Italy but it is very Swedish how all the entire thing is represented. The songs are learned in Sweden since kindergarten and tell about this woman dressed in white, with candles on her head, bringing light in the dark and cold days of December. In fact, the 13th December was considered, before the Gregorian calendar was introduced, to be the shortest day of the year (while today it is the 21st). Want to know something more about this very Swedish tradition? Take a look to this interesting and funny video! Are you out for the very origin of Saint Lucy? Then go here instead 😀

By the way, today my host family had lunch/dinner/food at 15,30 with me. We had a great time and now I am writing this post…later on I will watch a movie. I am not ready to start to write all the pages I have due Wednesday, but I will start tomorrow, now I have to relax psychologically!

This morning I was “googling” around, and I found out about the “Vätternrundan”. It is about cycling around the lake Vättern (the second largest in Sweden after Vänern). You can start from the late afternoon of a friday in June, until the morning of the day after…and you are supposed to finish before midnight of that day, or is Saturday…it is 300 km total and the price to partecipate is 1500kr. It is a lot of money, but you get food and a big organization is made around it, 20.000 persons use to take part to it. So, I am kind of cheering myself up thinking about the training I will start once back in Karlstad after the Christmas break. I should aim for an average of 30 kms at the start, mixing pace and duration, studying my diet, and so on, I really look forward to it! And also even though it is going to be pretty cold from January to March (the air cooled down by once since the middle of this week) days will get longer starting from the 21st December, so that I will have always a longer time during the day to manage both studying, training, relaxing, being host and so on…

Now I have to go…cosy night with a film and tomorrow I start a tough fourdaysstudymarathon before landing in Rome 😀