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  • Writer's pictureLisa Huntsha

Festival of Sankta Lucia

Augustana College hosted its annual Festival of Sankta Lucia on Monday, December 5th, immediately following the Swenson Center's Julbord dinner. Held in Ascension chapel, the space was standing-room only as guests heard Swedish language students perform traditional Swedish Christmas carols, lessons and poetry.

Each year, a Scandinavian Studies student is chosen to portray Lucia. This year Lucia was Maja Johnson, a senior from Stillman Valley, Ill., majoring in Scandinavian studies and history. Maja is also a former Swenson Center intern, and current Swenson Center student employee working on archival processing projects. Following Augustana, she aspires to study archival science at a university in Sweden.

Maja says, "My family has Swedish ancestry so Sankta Lucia is a holiday tradition I’ve known about for as long as I can remember. Getting to participate in this tradition as Lucia made me feel more connect to my Swedish heritage than I’ve ever felt before. I also can’t stress how wonderful it feels to see the newer Swedish students getting to experience this beautiful cultural celebration."

Woman wearing a crown of candles surrounded by singers
Maja Johnson '23 portrays Sankta Lucia

The Sankta Lucia Festival is a cherished tradition of the Advent season in all the Nordic countries. A candlelight procession of singers is led by a young woman robed in white with a crown of candles on her head, to commemorate the martyred St. Lucy (d. 304 AD), whose feast day is Dec. 13.

Music in the program is drawn from the Advent and Christmas traditions of the historic Augustana Lutheran Church and the other Swedish-American denominations in the United States. The group was led by Scandinavian Studies faculty members Dr. Mark Safstrom and Dr. Lucas Henry. Accompaniment was provided by campus organist, Chris Nelson. The Ascension Ringers, directed by Ben Holmes, also performed as well as special music provided by several Augustana students.

The celebration was hosted by Augustana's Scandinavian Studies Program, together with the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, the American Scandinavian Association at Augustana, and Campus Ministries.


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