A Swedish celebration — with a little bit of Italy mixed in

A Swedish celebration — with a little bit of Italy mixed in
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

What do Italians and Scandinavians have in common — besides Bay Ridge?

The answer is Saint Lucy — or Santa Lucia, as she’s known in sunnier climates — whose feast day was celebrated at the Christ Church After School Program on Dec. 13.

The kids honored the Sicilian-born martyr — one of the few saints found in Protestant Nordic traditions — in the old Swedish fashion, with a procession and songs that welcomed the holiday season and the winter solstice.

“It’s really beautiful, because we have a great space here, a building from 1910,” said program director Victoria Hofmo, known for her work with the Scandinavian East Coast Museum.

More than half of the 42 kids in the after-school program volunteered to join the festivities, with 11-year-old Sally Amro leading the procession dressed in Saint Lucy’s red sash and crown of candles. Amro carried a plate of saffron Lucia rolls with her — bright yellow buns representing the sun.

Other girls dressed as Saint Lucy’s angelic attendants, wearing white clothes and silver crowns and sashes. The young men became “star boys” wearing peaked bakers hats.

The children sang the Italian standard “Santa Lucia” with Swedish lyrics, “Silent Night,” and “Tomte’s Song” — named for the gnome-like trickster of Nordic mythology — for an audience of 40-plus friends and family members. Afterward, the kids made Santa Lucia ornaments, Santa Claus clothespins, and Krumkake cookies.

Hofmo said the event was an important way of preserving the neighborhood’s Scandinavian heritage — especially since only a few of the kids in the program are of Nordic ancestry.

“The idea is for them to learn the culture, that they might not be exposed to otherwise,” said Hofmo.

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