The Swedish Lucia is a bearer of light, literally. Candles are her customary headgear, and on December 13, the whole country is lit up as Swedes mark Lucia Day, a day associated with the Italian martyr, Saint Lucia. Many Lucia events stay true to tradition with Lucia donning real candles in her hair, although a switch to a battery-powered version is increasingly common.
The white-clad Lucia brings her choral entourage, a sprinkling of joy, a sensation of light and, more practically, coffee and saffron buns (see the recipe on the right) to her audience. Legend has it that the original saint helped poor and needy Christians by bringing them food and drink.
Candles are must-have accessories in Swedish homes. In December four advent candles are often lit, one at a time, in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Advent is also the time to switch on the electric candlestick, a popular Swedish ornament, usually with seven candles set in pyramid form, which was actually invented by a Swede, Oscar Andersson, in 1934.