Every year on Dec. 13, Sweden celebrates light.
Here in Fort Dodge, Grace Lutheran Church paid tribute to its Swedish heritage Sunday with its annual St. Lucia fest.
"This church was founded by Swedish immigrants in 1870 and St. Lucia day has been celebrated here ever since," said the Rev. Matthew Martens.
After both Sunday morning services, parishioners came to the fireside room to snack on traditional Swedish goodies and receive a saffron bun from a young girl wearing a white robe with a crown of candles.
Jessica Jordison, 11, was selected to be St. Lucia this year.
"It's really fun," she said.
Jordison will start her confirmation classes next year. It's the church's tradition to pick a girl around this age to be St. Lucia, said Anita Lindquist.
"In Sweden the oldest daughter in a house would get up very early and prepare coffee and rolls, and serve that to their parents, so we have St. Lucia buns at our celebration," Lindquist said.
Other Swedish treats included potato bologna, oostakaka, krumkaka and fruit soup. Multiple cakes and pastries were there with almond or almond flavor, which is very popular in Sweden, said Judy Reed.
Judy Reed has been part of the women's group that makes the goodies for years. Her husband, Pat Reed was enjoying the results.
"I like the oostakaka," he said. "It means cheese cake, but it's more like cheese pudding."
The oostakaka was popular that morning, as was the ice cream cone-shaped krumkaka.
"I don't know the names of them, but they are fantastic," said Nancy Anderson.
St. Lucia day, Dec. 13, marks the start of the Christmas season in Sweden, Lindquist said.
"That date was originally picked, I believe, because of the old calendar," she said. "It's at a time when it was the shortest day of the year, and the longest night of the year."
It's also the date when Lucia was martyred, Martens said.
"There's several different traditions that have combined, some different historical days," Lindquist said.
Martens gave a brief history.
"St. Lucia was born in Sicily, Italy, a wealthy young Christian woman in the second century, whose father demanded she marry a pagan," Martens said. "Instead, Lucy gave her large dowry to the poor and went to live in a convent."
The Sicilian saint got her own Swedish holiday because of an account from the Middle Ages, Martens said. St. Lucy, dressed in white, with a crown of burning candles on her head, brought food to starving villagers in Sweden.
Tying together the themes of darkness and light, most stories of St. Lucia say her eyes were put out before she was killed.
"Her jilted fiancee took her before the Roman judge. He told Lucy her eyes were so beautiful he couldn't live without gazing into them," said Martens. "So Lucy plucked out her eyes then and there and handed them to him on a plate."
Marian Wyman and her husband John both have been to countless St. Lucia fests. Their grandparents were born in Sweden.
"I hadn't heard about the eyeballs before," Marian Wyman said.