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New Lucia

In Stratford, an old tradition takes a new twist

December 14, 2013
By HANS MADSEN, , Messenger News

STRATFORD - This year's Lucia, chosen by random drawing during the Lucia Festivity of Light at the Stratford Lutheran Church Saturday, has something in common with the first Lucia chosen in 2004 as part of the Swedish Foundation of Iowa's "Swede Bend" Settlement Inc. annual celebration.

She is her grandmother.

Nicole Bergman, who was Lucia for Christmas of 2004, was quite happy to see her grandmother, Doris Bergman, 80, wear the crown of lights this year.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Newly crowned 2013 Lucia Doris Swanson Bergman, of Stratford, leads the procession out of the Stratford Lutheran Church Saturday afternoon at the 2013 Lucia Festivity of Light. Behind her, the 2012 Lucia, Madison Haman, 17, of Stratford, follows.

"I think it's great," she said after giving her a big hug following the ceremony.

Doris Bergman's reaction was fairly low key.

"I was surprised," she said. "It's quite an honor."

Fact Box

St. Lucia

In Sweden, the current celebration of St. Lucia began in 1927 when a Stockholm newspaper organized a public procession and helped elect a Lucia. The tradition grew throughout Sweden. In each home, the tradition is for the oldest daughter to rise early and serve the family saffron buns and coffee. The event starts the Christmas season.

The historic St. Lucia is thought to have lived in Sicily around 310 A.D. She was put to death by the Romans for aiding Christians at a time when they were being persecuted.

How a Catholic saint became venerated in Protestant Scandinavia is still something of a historic mystery; it is thought that her story may have been told by early missionaries to the region.

Many towns in Sweden and other countries in Scandinavia continue to organize Lucia processions.

One tradition that goes with being Lucia is staying up all night and greeting the morning - but neither Lucia actually did, or plans to do, that.

"I didn't stay up all night," Nicole Bergman said.

By Swedish tradition, the Lucia is usually the oldest female child in the household. By lack of suitable candidates in the right age bracket, seniors stepped in this year.

Darrell Young, who welcomed visitors to the event, explained it simply: "We're out of young maidens, so we're using mature maidens."

Two of them, Lynn Schlief, of Dayton, and Minyon Spellmeyer, of Webster City, spent some time getting to know each other better because they had never met before.

"I don't know what I'm getting into," Schlief said after admitting to a little bit of stage fright.

To honor her Swedish ancestry, she was wearing her grandmother's wedding ring.

"She got married on Christmas day in 1901," she said.

She's been researching her family history, which included locating original boat tickets from the trip across the Atlantic from Sweden, and also recalls some Swedish holiday traditions.

"We still had Swedish food," she said.

For Spellmeyer, those holiday memories included the maybe edible, maybe not so edible, Lutefisk.

"That was not for me," she admitted.

One thing they were both happy about was the use of electrical candles on the Lucia crown.

"All this hairspray back here," Spellmeyer said. "I'm thankful there isn't candles on it."

Prior to the crowning of the Lucia they all wore crowns of branches and leaves, and though they were not likely to burst into flames, both women said they thought it was just a little silly looking.

Carol Larson, of Stratford, helps organize the annual event. She was happy to let the senior Lucias have a turn at it.

"It's a thrill that the more mature ladies are enjoying it," Larson said.

She was also glad to see the grandmother-granddaughter connection.

"That's really neat," she said.

Of course, one thing that apparently still needs to be invented is an adjustable Lucia crown of lights. Doris Bergman had one small problem: "It's a little loose," she said.



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