Windsor residents Mona and Brad Endicott invited friends to join them last Tuesday evening for their annual Swedish Winter Solstice Celebration, highlighted by a charming St. Lucia Ceremony.
The couple moved in February to another gorgeous home, which was bathed in twinkling lights and flickering candles, exuding a warmth surpassed only by that of the delightful family. Ideal weather meant that doors could be thrown open for guests to wander about the home and view the exquisite holiday décor or mill about the festively lit pool area.
“The tradition is so deeply embedded in our family, passed down from generation to generation,” said Petra Frisell, Mona Endicott’s daughter. Both women were born in Sweden and admit to tearing up even during the ceremony’s rehearsal. “It’s just so emotional. I was Lucia, my mother was Lucia, my grandmother was Lucia and now, of course, my daughter Eva is Lucia.”
Frisell explained that in the home, the custom is that the eldest daughter brings her parents coffee and Lussekatts (saffron buns) on Lucia Day. But each village also has its own Lucia, with ceremonies played out in various gathering places.
Noting that while Sweden is a Lutheran county and St. Lucia was a Catholic saint, she added,
“She’s a religious figure to some, but she does appeal to the pagan influence. We have a strong awareness of the force of the forest and the sea and the earth, and she represents light. She provides hope that the sun will return.”
At the start of the ceremony, Petra’s brother, Sven Frisell, shared the legend of St. Lucia, whose very name means light.
“She arrives on the shortest day of the year, Dec. 13,” he said, adding with an aside they were a week late “out of the dark, cold night, dressed in white and with candles in her hair to bring light, hope and a reason to believe in good things to come.”
He related that as a young Sicilian woman, Lucia wore candles on her head to leave her hands free while carrying food to persecuted Christians. She was executed and in 306 was canonized. He said the story was likely transported through Viking seafarers, and Swedes adopted her for their winter solstice tradition.
At the appointed hour Eva Frisell as St. Lucia, wearing an evergreen crown of candles, led a procession attended by stjärngossar (star boys) and tärnor (girls), all carefully carrying lit candles. The group made their way along the pool and into the living room, ending with traditional carols in front of the spectacular Christmas tree. Afterward, guests enjoyed a delicious ‘julbord’ buffet of assorted traditional savory fare and sweets.
“I love it because it’s so moving; it makes me feel connected to my Swedish roots,” said Eva Frisell.
In an odd twist of fate, Mona Endicott shared that she had become an American earlier that same day. “I’m very happy,” said Endicott of her now blended cultures.