An Iconic Swedish tradition, the annual candlelit Lucia procession, is dying out across the country, several news outlets have reported.
Tomorrow – December 13th – is St. Lucia day, the feast day of a little-known saint who may reflect even more ancient archetypes, in Sweden and other areas of Northern Europe. Santa Lucia processions, and the choosing of a local girl to represent the one whose name means “Holy Light,” are centuries-old customs in many areas. Now, however, it seems that even this venerable tradition is falling to a combination of disinterest and what I would characterize as runaway political correctness.
Some people may choose to discount this story because of its source. Others may accept its factual accuracy, but believe the disappearance of traditional St. Lucia celebrations are no big deal, or even desirable, in the eternal quest to be more “inclusive.”
I believe any of these viewpoints is unfortunate. Human cultures have this in common with trees: if severed from their roots, they quickly wither and die. And the right to protect, preserve, and pass on with integrity and mindfulness their distinct culture and heritage, customs and traditions, is not unique to certain groups, and not others.
Like many other European customs and traditions, St. Lucia is – or has been, until recently – a vibrant blend of Christian and “baptized” pre-Christian elements. I have, to my knowledge, only a small amount of Swedish heritage. But I would mourn deeply the passing of this enchanting and sacred spiritual and cultural tradition. I believe that Europeans, both in Europe and in the “European diaspora” across the globe, need to more fully and intentionally embrace their own cultural heritage. For too long we have taken it for granted. That luxury is no longer available to us!