Lucia of Finland is selected through a voting organised by the non-governmental social welfare organisation Folkhälsan together with Yle, the Finnish Public Service Media Company, and the Swedish-language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet. Folkhälsan is responsible for candidate selection, voting, Lucia Day fundraising, morning broadcasts, the coronation in the Helsinki Cathedral, Lucia’s visits to hospitals, daycare centres and nursing homes, the traditional Lucia Day market and much more.
An ambassador of light and joy, Lucia reminds us that we all need to help our fellow humans in difficult times. She is the figurehead of the St Lucia fundraising drive organised by Folkhälsan. The money raised will be used to support families in distress. For example poverty, illness or lack of close friends and family may drive families to the verge of exhaustion, depriving parents of the strength they need to be good parents despite their best intentions and parenting skills.
The violent history of Saint Lucia
According to legend, Lucia was a historical figure who probably lived between 283 and 303 CE. According to folklorists, the Lucia tradition combines elements from the legends of Saint Nicholas, Saint Knut, Baby Jesus and Lucifer.
Stories and legends about Lucia date back to antiquity and the city of Syracuse in 283 CE, when Lucia was born into a wealthy noble family. In keeping with the customs of the time, Lucia’s parents had promised to marry her off to someone, but she preferred to remain a virgin and serve God. Left without dowries, the groom felt cheated, and concluded that Lucia was a Christian. At the time, Christians were persecuted by Roman emperors. The groom turned Lucia in to the authorities. Legend has it that Lucia then gouged her eyes out, believing that her beautiful eyes were the reason why the treacherous groom was interested in her. God immediately rewarded Lucia’s loyalty by giving her eyes back to her.
The Prefect of Syracuse wanted to find out if Lucia was a Christian and asked her to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Lucia replied that the purest sacrifice to God would be to visit widows, orphans and pilgrims, and that by giving away all her possessions she had made such a sacrifice to Jesus three years ago.
The prefect decided to punish Lucia by ordering her to work in a brothel, but Lucia categorically refused. They then tried to burn Lucia, but she would not catch fire. Finally, an executioner was summoned, who killed Lucia by piercing her with a sword. Allegedly, the executioner was Lucia’s groom.
Festivities on the longest night of the year
Soon after her death, Lucia became one of the most important saints of the Catholic Church. Christianity arrived in the North in the 11th century, and with it the many saints of the Catholic Church, including Saint Lucia.
The night between the 12th and 13th of December, which was considered the longest night of the year, had a long-standing history as a pagan celebration. The long dark night was believed to be full of witchcraft and evil spirits.
No wonder that the tradition of celebrating Saint Lucia’s Day began just then. That same night also marked the beginning of the Christmas fast, preceded by ample eating and drinking. It was a time of drinking and celebrating.
Lucia in Finland since 1898
According to records, Lucia appeared for the first time in Sweden in a manor house in the Västra Götaland region in 1764. Lucia’s first performance in the Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm, Sweden, took place in 1893. From Skansen, the new Christmas tradition soon spread to schools and associations all over Sweden and eventually to the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland.
Allegedly, the Svenska fruntimmerskolan i Åbo girls’ school in Turku, Finland, crowned a Lucia as early as in 1898. Records show that a Lucia maiden was also elected at the Vöyri folk high school in 1913 and at the Högvalla school of domestic economy in 1919.
In the 1920s, Lucia began to be a familiar sight on the covers of Swedish weeklies, helping the tradition to spread quickly in Finland. The real mass media breakthrough took place in 1927, when Stockholms Dagblad newspaper organised the first outdoor Lucia parade in Stockholm.
Three years later, in 1930, Helsingfors Svenska Sångarförbund musical association and the Brage Association organised the first Lucia parade in Helsinki, which was covered by the Allas Krönika newspaper. Vaasa’s Brage Association organised an open-air Lucia parade in 1936.
St Lucia fundraising drive since 1949
The St Lucia fundraising drive was initiated by Folkhälsan in 1949, and in the same year the tradition of open-air parades in central Helsinki was revived. Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper joined in as an organiser in 1950. Since then, the Lucia maiden crowned in Helsinki has been regarded as Lucia of Finland, and the event has expanded and diversified year after year. Since the beginning of the tradition, the Lucia parade has been extremely popular. It is one of the main reasons why the Lucia Day tradition has become so widely celebrated in Finland.
Today, Folkhälsan is responsible for organising the charity fund drive and for selecting the Lucia of Finland together with Hufvudstadsbladet and Yle. Lucia of Finland is crowned at the Helsinki Cathedral on 13 December at 5 pm. Nearly 1,500 people watch the coronation inside the Cathedral, and about 10,000 watch it live on a giant screen in the Senate Square. The event is also broadcast live on television and in the Yle Arena streaming service. At 6 pm Lucia descends the stairs of the Cathedral, and the Lucia procession starts its tour of Helsinki.
Take part in the Lucia fundraiser
Lucia of Finland and the Lucia choir visit around a hundred places each year, including homes for the elderly, companies and various events. Would you like to invite Lucia for a visit or volunteer in the Lucia fundraising drive? Please contact us by email at email@example.com.
When voting for your favourite Lucia candidate, you can also give money for the Lucia fundraiser, or you can make a separate donation. Read more about the fundraiser and how the money raised will be used here (in Swedish).
Lucia of Finland is also on Facebook and Instagram. Join the followers of Lucia of Finland!