Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Lucia!

It is Santa Lucia, one of my favorite Swedish holidays. And as the Swedish church and the Swedish school system continue to divide, I do hope this little tradition remains.

Because really, while this certainly has a religious background, I don’t think many people pray to Saint Lucia, they just like the snacks, the clothes and the songs.

In fact I would tell you the story of St. Lucia, but I never manage to get it right and I don’t think it has much to do with the celebration today.

Most schools and cities celebrate with a parade of girls dressed in white with candles in their hair. The boys dress as Star guys, Santa Claus or Gingerbread men (which even brought controversy this year – as the Gingerbread man song includes the refrain ‘So brown, so brown, so brown are we – a reference not to skin color, but you know, them being made of gingerbread).

I am very grateful that Little Swede’s school celebrates St. Lucia indoors. It has become more and more popular to have Lucia parades outdoors. As the temperature was -10 Celsius, the idea of sitting around outside was not high on my list of things to do.

The kids were adorable, the teachers sang beautifully, and we had a nice breakfast of rice porridge and Lussekatter (Saffron rolls – search my blog for a recipe!).

Learn a Lucia song below – 3 Gingerbread Men has been a favorite in our house this year! 


  1. It seems like since we've become globalized the last few decades, we've had to adopt a lot of other countries' taboos. Brown face is racist in sweden because white americans stole Jazz from black culture or something, even though at the time sweden barely had black people, let alone a culture. I'm not one of those who gets upset over these things, but it is pretty strange.

  2. I am planning a longer post on this subject for later, so won't get into this a lot now, but do want to say that I don't think it has anything to do with American's stealing jazz, but everything to do with turning people of different races into caricatures rather than individuals - and not understanding that if you have a group of immigrants with a different background, they may get offended (and legitimately so) by these caricatures.

    But as I said, I will flesh it out later, it is a big subject and needs some space I think.

    That said, characters that have no race, are not based on caricatures and are simply a baked good - like the gingerbread man - who happen to have a darker color - I think are excluded from this category.

  3. I'll give you some more material then. Not too long ago there was a big controversy in america because an australian ad had black people eating chicken. When the aussies figured out what the hell the americans were talking about they got quite upset they were being called racist over a stereotype they had never heard of.

    A depiction of a thing is not automatically a caricature, you need some kind of perception or history behind it.

    1. Again, I think this topic deserves a longer blog post, and I cannot speak to the incident in Australia since I only googled it. But I will say this - No, depiction is not necessarily charicature. And labeling something offensive or racist should not be an excuse to censor someone. BUT if you put a message out there, and you live in a global society, you don't get to control how people react to it.

      This is why many businesses remove such advertisements when discussions arise -- Nogger Black ads were removed by the American owned company and the KFC ads in Australia were also taken down, if I read correctly, by their American parent company -- mostly because they do not want to be linked to the images. This is a matter of business. For the same reason, I think it is wrong to remove books from libraries for offensive images, or stop reading certain books in school -- because these things are still culturally important and we can learn from them.

      I believe that if you want to be seen as a democratic and equal country, you should at least be paying a little bit of attention to the reactions of the many people (from the US, Africa, Asia, France, Denmark etc) that make up your population. It does not mean you need to bend to their will all of the time, but that in making certain choices about what you deem societally acceptable, you are also defining your own culture. I am not telling Swedes how to be Swedish, but I am saying that the discourse they have on this subject does not always reflect well on them.

      That said, in the US you had people calling Obama a n-r on Twitter because he gave a speech during a football game after the latest school shooting. I don't think because we call certain things offensive in the US, we are that much better at actually dealing with them.

      And see, I tried not be all rambley and yet I was.... I'll let you have the last word here if you want, and will continue to brainstorm a longer post where we can discuss it further there. But to be honest it is a subject that intimidates me, even if I feel strongly about it.

    2. There's a wide range of discourse going on, a few people being obnoxious does not invalidate an opinion.