Mid-December is dark and cold in Finland – there are no two ways about it. As the country takes its annual plunge into winter, many Finns find solace in a saint.
White-clad Saint Lucia, borrowed from Catholic and Orthodox churches, wears a striking crown of tall white candles and sings ancient songs to urge people out of their winter doldrums. The main event takes place on December 13.
It’s the closest thing Finland has to celebrating royalty. This special woman, symbolic of the fourth-century Italian martyr Lucia, is put on a pedestal. She is literally crowned – and then given the duty of offering an abundance of joy, music and golden light to everyone who needs it.
Thousands of girls across the country also don homemade versions of Lucia’s trademark white dress and crown of candles (kids use safe, battery-powered “candles” nowadays). Then they sing for family or schoolmates in an annual tradition that has continued to grow over the years.
Lucia will be crowned every year in Helsinki Cathedral. See more here.