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Posted by: Date: December 8, 2008 In: ,

Sankta Lucia Fest opens the Christmas season

Emma Kane said she remembers growing up with the candles, the white dresses and the red sash, as her family celebrated the Sankta Lucia Fest each Dec. 13.On Friday night, Kane, a sophomore from Portland, Ore., had a chance to celebrate a festival that honors light, faith and sacrifice in front of the PLU community as she was crowned this season’s Lucia out of 15 contenders for the title.“I’ve been doing this since I was little and I was obviously pleased to be doing this at PLU,” said a happy Kane, after she received the crown of candles and holly that the Lucia traditionally wears.

Later, Kane and her attendants presided over the Lucia festival at Lagerquist Hall, a ceremony that included performances from the Sodra Vatterbygdens Fokshogskola Choir, which is visiting from Jonkoping, Sweden. Jeff Anderson played the fiddle, and of course Jultomten (Santa Claus) came for a quick visit.

To compete for the honor, each of the women had to write an essay on the importance of cultural diversity in their lives, and each practiced for a month to sing the traditional Sankta Lucia song in Swedish. Kane will receive a $500 scholarship for being chosen as the Lucia.

The Sankta Lucia festival was introduced by PLU in 1951 by Rev. E Arthur Larson. To start the tradition here, Larson send a white-robed student to wake up members of his Swedish language class one December morning.

The Lucia legend began when Lucia was born to a Sicilian family in 284 A.D. As a young girl, Lucia adopted the Christian faith. She refused to marry a young man whom she was betrothed to and gave away her dowry to the poor. When the man reported her to the authorities, she was ordered burned at the stake for her faith. The fire would not light, so she died by the sword. The Sankta Lucia tradition began to catch on in Sweden in the 1700s, and spread throughout the rest of Scandinavia over the next 200 years.