In December 1951, Rev. E. Arthur Larson, professor of Swedish, introduced the Lucia custom to the PLU campus. The first Lucia was Lola Murk Gracey (class of '54). She dressed in the traditional white robe with a red sash and wore a crown of candles on her head. She rose very early in the morning and went from room to room in Harstad Hall offering her fellow students cookies and hot coffee. Lola donated the crown she wore in 1951 to the SCC's permanent artifact collection. From its humble beginnings, the Sanka Lucia Fest has become a time-honored tradition at PLU.
The Lucia Legend
There are many legends about Sankta Lucia and in each one, Lucia stands as a symbol of light and hope. Sankta Lucia's coming sparks the spirit of friendliness and goodwill that lasts throughout the holiday season.
One popular legend is said to have originated in Syracuse, Italy, on the island of Sicily, and eventually made its way to Scandinavia. The legend tells of a young woman, about to be married, who gave her entire dowry to the poor people of her village in the province of Värmland. When she vowed to devote her life to Christ, she was accused of witchcraft and was burned at the stake on December 13, 304 AD. It is said that after her death, Lucia could be seen on Lake Vänern dressed in a white gown with a crown of lights on her head. Eventually, the early Church gave Lucia the status of sainthood and she became known as Sankta Lucia. Artists often portray Lucia as a blind girl holding a lamp. Fishermen regard her as a patron saint who guides them through stormy seas.
In Sweden, Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13th in the schools and in the workplace. In Swedish homes, the eldest daughter rises early in the morning, dresses in a white gown with a red sash, and wears a crown of candles in her hair. She wakes her family at dawn and serves them a breakfast of coffee, gingerbread cookies, and Lussekatter.
Sankta Lucia Fest is a time to celebrate a young woman who embodied the qualities of mercy, purity, dedication, hope, and faith. The quality of mercy is seen through the service she rendered to the people of her village. The white gown she wears is a symbol of purity, and the crimson sash at her waist represents a steadfast dedication to her religious beliefs, even unto death. The crown of evergreens and the halo of candles denote the hope of eternal life.