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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Finland Series at FinnishPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Finnish holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 11, St. Lucy’s Day. In Finnish, it’s called Lucian päivä.
St. Lucy's Day is celebrated on December 13. Held during the darkest time of the year in Finland, St. Lucy’s Day brings light to the middle of winter. In this lesson, we will take a closer look at the background and the customs associated with St. Lucy's Day.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
Do you know what meanings the name Lucia has?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
St. Lucy was the patron saint of the blind and the visually impaired and was slain during the religious persecutions of 304. St. Lucy's memorial day was originally part of the Catholic calendar of saints, but it has since moved to become a part of Swedish-speaking culture in particular, making its way to Finland from Sweden. It is believed that the first Finnish St. Lucy celebration was held in 1898.
The most important part of St. Lucy's Day is the selection of the official Lucia maiden, or Lucia-neito in Finnish. In Finland, the Lucia maiden is chosen through the cooperation of the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet and the health care organization Folkhälsan. Anyone can make suggestions for suitable Lucia candidates, and a jury is convened to select a list of 10 finalists. The candidate must be at least 18 years of age, her home language must be Swedish, and in addition it is beneficial for her to have a good singing voice. The favorite girl, as voted by the public, will then be crowned as the Finnish Lucia maiden on the steps of Helsinki Cathedral, or Helsingin Tuomiokirkko, on December 13.
Selection of a Lucia for all of Finland has been taking place since 1949. After the coronation, the Lucia maiden performs on the steps of the cathedral with a cadre of Christmas elves, or joulutontut, and tours around the center of Helsinki with her procession. Later, she visits hospitals, nursing homes, children's homes, and prisons to sing and to serve Lucia buns, or Lucia-pulla in Finnish. Lucia also goes on to greet the President of the Republic. Lucia processions, or Lucia-kulkue in Finnish, are held in other locations in Finland as well, and many schools will select their own Lucia maiden. Lucia is marked by her distinctive white long, gown, red belt, and crown of candles, or kynttiläkruunu, atop her head.
The Nordic Lucia tradition is associated with a song called 'Santa Lucia,' which is sung by the Lucia maiden and her choir. Originally, the tune was Italian. Rather than the beauty of the Lucia maiden, the original fishermen’s boat song describes the beauty of the seascape at the port district of Santa Lucia.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Do you know what meanings the name Lucia has?
Lucia's name is based on the Latin word lux meaning “light.” Translated to Finnish, Lucia's name could therefore be Valotar or “Lady of Light”. St. Lucy’s Day is celebrated during the darkest time of the year, after which the days begin to lengthen again. Lucia is therefore metaphorically the bringer of light.
How was this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Is the story of St. Lucy famous in your country as well?
Leave us a comment at FinnishPod101.com, and see you again in the next class!