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Santa Lucia celebration at First Evangelical Free Church in Bay Ridge

Let there be light! Scandinavian celebration breaks the winter darkness

The Brooklyn Paper
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It’s the celebration of light — from the land of the midday sun to the land of the midnight sun.

The Scandinavian East Coast Museum held its 10th annual Santa Lucia’s Day celebration at the First Evangelical Free Church at the corner of 65th Street and Fifth Avenue on Dec. 13 — honoring the blinded Sicilian-born martyr who became a symbol of brightness in the Nordic nations.

“There’s a lot of imagery about light and darkness in Lucia,” said Museum founder and celebration organizer Victoria Hofmo.

Hofmo pointed out that all pre-Christian societies had celebrations during the darkest time of the year, as the calendar approached the winter solstice, from the Roman Saturnalia to the Swedish Lussinatta.

“When the Christians took over they didn’t kill the pagan holidays, they tried to replace them,” said Hofmo.

And so the traditional Scandinavian ritual, recalling the Italian saint who lost her eyes but still saw the light of God, combines both Christian and pre-Christian elements.

In the procession, the oldest girl wears a red sash representing the blood of the saint’s martyrdom. She dons a wreath of candles on her head and carries a plate of yellow saffron buns to symbolize the sun. The younger children follow her dressed as bakers, spangled, tinselly “star boys,” and tomtes — the gift-bearing gnomes of Scandinavian legend.

“What makes it really beautiful is it’s very theatrical, very dramatic, candles in a shadowy room,” said Hofmo.

Few of the children Hofmo works with are of Scandinavian ancestry, but the organizer said the celebration embodies the core tenets of her Museum’s mission.

“One of of our main goals is to share our culture, especially with young people,” Hofmo said. “Kids love it. They can learn so much in a very fun way.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
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Reasonable discourse

Jan Harrison from Lowellville, Ohio says:
Beautiful pictures of my two granddaughters!! Adelia & Lena Berner. Makes my heart just beam with pride!!
Dec. 17, 2013, 8:25 pm
Fearless Living from Bay Ridge says:
This is always a great story about honoring diversity in the Southern Brooklyn, Bay Ridge area.

Scandinavians celebrating a Sicilian, all because a Semite was born some 2000 years ago in Israel.

It's also a great story about how Christians incorporate the best of traditions of other peoples into their own festivities, as Hofmo points out.

Definitely something everyone should feel good about. Thanks for keeping this tradition alive, and thanks for reporting it!
Dec. 21, 2013, 9:57 am

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