13th December in Denmark (as well as other Scandinavian countries) is St Lucia Day. It was thought to be the shortest day of the year before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar and in schools there is a tradition on a St Lucia procession with girls dressed in white, carrying candles to bring light to the dark. The first girl traditionally wears a crown of four candles. It is not a big celebration outside of schools but in conversation with Danish friends who had been the St Lucia bride leading the procession when they were little – it is a very special and magical memory. Recently I learnt a lot more about the story of St Lucia (or St Lucy) from my son. He is fascinated by the traditional stories he is told at school from the story of Diwali to this one (I really believe the teaching of different celebrations is really enriching his knowledge and understanding of different cultures). The story is St Lucy secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome, who were forced underground into the catacombs. Lucy would wear a crown of candles so she could use both of her hands to carry items. This article tells a lot more about the Swedish tradition and how to celebrate.
A big part of a traditional celebration is food, of course and traditionally St Lucia breads are made. There are special shaped sweet breads flavoured with saffron. I made them a few years ago and I used the recipe in this book and will definitely try them again.