St. Lucia Celebration shines a light on Swedish culture in Connecticut


Eliza Barr ’21

For a brief moment, I’d completely forgotten I was in Westport at all. Instead, standing in the back of the fully packed Christ & Holy Trinity Church as two dozen or so kids stood on stage beginning the St. Lucia festival, I felt I had been transported halfway across the globe to Sweden. St. Lucia, or ‘the Queen of Light,’ celebration is an annual ‘festival of light’ holiday that the Swedish School of Connecticut celebrated this past Dec. 15. Tickets were $15 each, which went towards supporting the school.

If you were like me, you wouldn’t have realized that such a large Swedish community existed in Connecticut. Yet, the unique and beautiful traditions that I hadn’t heard of before that night drew in a large gathering. The festival started with a chorus of children singing Swedish holiday songs such as ‘Himlen i min famn.’ Members of the chorus wore traditional outfits which included white dress-like robes, red sashes and, in some cases, a wreath of candles that sat on the top of their heads. Although I arrived only shortly after the concert had begun, the church was already jammed packed, so I was forced to stand in the back for its entirety. Being in the back, it was hard to hear over a whispering crowd and the occasional crying baby, but in general it was still enjoyable.

The concert itself was surprisingly short so standing was only a minor inconvenience. Although the celebration would have thrived better at a larger location, the Christ & Holy Trinity Church was still undoubtedly a beautiful place to have the festival, with the candlelight picking up the details in the stain glass windows and painted ceiling. The festival-goers watched and enjoyed the music until the chorus progression solemnly walked down the aisle with parents flashing cameras like paparazzi.

Everyone then migrated to Branson Hall to enjoy traditional Swedish treats. There must have been close two hundred people there, but there seemed to be double that in food, and even as I was leaving, there didn’t appear to be a shortage. Among many homemade Swedish Christmas treats, saffron buns seemed to be a crowd favorite, resembling a cinnamon bun with other spices and currants. In fear of getting lost in the crowd of foreign language speakers, I almost didn’t approach the table to try one, but thankfully did as the saffron buns turned out to be delicious.

Swedish was the dominant language spoken, unlike most holiday events in Westport. Being a monolingual English speaker, I felt awkward being there and didn’t really engage in as much conversation as I had hoped. The event wasn’t long which I found relieving just because I felt occasionally out of place. Although everyone was truly kind and inviting, I felt uncomfortable with the idea that I might be intruding on a special holiday. But despite the fact I was new to the culture and knew nearly nothing about St. Lucia, I enjoyed getting in the holiday spirit all while learning about a foreign culture, right in downtown Westport.