Ida Brown

Ida Brown as Lucia in the GammelKyrkan at Gammelgården.


Candles will light the path to the old church at Gammelgården this Sunday. Inside the simple and unheated GammelKyrkan, a short service will be held in Swedish.

Then, it’s on to the Community Center to hear the Svenskarnas Dag Girls’ Choir. 

A Jul Fest breakfast includes hardboiled eggs, pickled herring, caraway cheese, salmon mousse, pickled beets, a bread basket featuring Lucia buns, yulekaga and lefse, fruit soup, rice pudding and cookies.

The Swedish tradition of Lucia Dagen has roots in the pre-Christian era, when the longest night meant evil spirits roamed and animals could talk, according to ancient lore. Those who survived until morning were rewarded with a feast.

As Christianity spread, the celebration evolved to honor Lucia, a martyred Italian saint who lived in the fourth century. Her name comes from the Italian “luce,” meaning “light,” and she is legendary for feeding the hungry. Some say Lucia, who spent her dowry money to feed the poor, was denounced by her fiancé and burned at the stake on Dec. 13.

In Sweden, she is said to have appeared during a famine, carrying a basket of bread across a lake, her head crowned with flames. 

Over time, legend evolved into ritual as the eldest daughter in each Swedish household rose early, donned a white robe, red sash and a crown of candles to deliver saffron buns and coffee to the family.

The date, Dec. 13, remained the same as calendars were changed in the 16th century, moving the celebration about a week ahead of the solstice. Gammelgården celebrates each year on a Sunday near that date.

About a century ago the household ritual died out in Sweden, but since 1927 a Stockholm Lucia has been crowned at the palace each year. She then serves coffee to Nobel Prize laureates. 

Scandia has celebrated Lucia Dagen in various forms since the 1960s, when it was part of Elim Lutheran Church’s Elva Kaffee, a craft and bake sale.

Lucia Dagen

When: Sunday, Dec. 9; services at 6 a.m. and 8:30 am; breakfast 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. 

Where: The GammelKyrkan (old church) at Gammelgården (20880 Olinda Trail, Scandia)

Details: Breakfast $15 / $5 children under 12, tickets sold at the door. To volunteer at the breakfast, sign up at

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