Category Archives: Folklore

St. Lucia and the Festival of Lights

Munchen, Minnesota might not be a real city, but we’ve had a totally great and never, ever nerve-wracking time making it as realistic as possible. Like many places in the Upper Midwest, Munchen was settled by German and Scandinavian immigrants, who brought along their Old World holiday traditions. The Christmas season is a huge deal in Munchen. And while we can’t tell you yet what happens, rest assured, something really big happens at the St. Lucia Festival.

When is St. Lucia’s Day?

St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated in Sweden on December 13. Although she was an Italian saint (who got her eyes poked out by Roman soldiers, btw), the Scandinavians seem to love St. Lucia because she brings along the one thing they’re in short supply of during the winter: light. Which is why it’s often called the Festival of Lights.

How do you celebrate St. Lucia’s Day?

By dressing up little girls in white robes and putting flaming ivy crowns on their sweet little heads, of course. (Er, I will let this informative video speak for itself.)

[WARNING: the Sankta Lucia song is a powerful earworm.]

You also eat and drink. The traditional foods of St. Lucia’s Day include lussekatter, or saffron buns shaped like cats (with raisins for eyes!) and glögg (try this recipe for Lord Commander Mormont’s Spiced Wine from the Inn at the Crossroads, the official food blog of Game of Thrones).

Where can I celebrate St. Lucia’s Day in the United States?

Besides Munchen, there are a few places you can celebrate the Festival of Lights:

Located in the Chicago neighborhood of Andersonville, which has been a Swedish enclave since before the Great Fire of 1871, the Swedish American Museum hosts a St. Lucia’s Day procession every December 13.

For nearly 40 years, the Bemidji, MN chapter of the American Swedish Institute has held a St. Lucia’s Day festival that concludes with (what else) a smorgasbord.

And on the east coast, the Swedish Women’s Educational Association holds an annual Swedish Yuletide (sadly, the date has passed for this year).

Have you ever attended at St. Lucia’s Day procession? Or better yet, have you ever been in a St. Lucia’s Day procession? Let us know!

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Filed under Folklore, Holiday Traditions, Scandinavians, Weird Midwest

Krampus in America: 5 Places to Meet the Christmas Devil

By now if you are a grumpy American who hates happiness, joy, and Christmas, you’ve heard of Krampus.

Wait! I haven’t. But I do hate all those things. Tell me more.

Krampus is the shaggy-haired. horned sidekick of St. Nicholas, who whacks bad children with this bundle of sticks, throws them into a bucket and takes them to…I’m not sure where exactly Krampus takes them to, and as long as it’s not my house, I really don’t want to know.

When does Krampus come calling?

December 5th is Krampusnacht, the night St. Nicholas and his pal parade through town scaring the bejeezus out of children. While a tradition in the Alpine countries, Krampus is relatively new to the United States. But he’s gaining popularity, which cheers my black little heart.

I have some rotten kids I need to shuffle off on someone. Where can I meet Krampus?

Here’s a not-totally-comprehensive list of krampuslaufen in the United States:

The third annual Krampuslauf Philadelphia encourages revelers to dress up like other terrifying pagan figures such as the Yule Lads. Here’s a bit from last year’s lauf (although I don’t think any of these kids look properly terrorized):

There were a few more screamers at last year’s Krampus Night in Bloomington, Indiana:

Then again, I don’t see any children at The PDX Krampusnacht Ball. Maybe in Portland, Krampus throws hipsters in his basket and takes them back to their crappy Midwest hometowns.

Speaking of which: you can also eat Breakfast with Krampus in Rochester, New York. I’ve long suspected that Krampus takes all those rotten kids to the Rust Belt, so this doesn’t really surprise me. You’re invited to bring an unwrapped toy for needy children, but “if it’s crap, Krampus is going to harrass you and drag you straight to hell.”

Last but not least, Krampus Los Angeles goes large: there are multiple events throughout the city during the month of December. Also: don’t miss The Truth About Krampus by Krampusfest LA director Al Ridenour on Atlas Obscura.

Any Krampus events near you? Let us know in the comments!

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