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Delightful

New Lucia crowned, but maidens steal the show

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lucia maidens, Alli Milleson, 4, of Boone, at left, along with Gracelynn Zenk, 5, of Stratford, stage whisper something very important Saturday during the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church as Joni Start-Miller talks about the Julbok, a yule goat.

The 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church is supposed to be all about crowning a new Lucia for the year.

This year, the Lucia Maidens, Gracelynn Zenk, 5, of Stratford, and Alli Milleson, 4, of Boone, pretty much stole the show.

The pair were tasked with carrying in the Julbok, a straw Yule goat, along with a straw star and heart. Then waiting by the Christmas tree as the event, leading to the crowning of a new Lucia, went on around them. This proved a bit too much.

The Julbok made it OK, after being played with and given a kiss. They’re quite durable after all. The star and heart, of less interest to the pair, ended up hung on the Christmas tree.

The pair then emptied out a parent’s purse, studied the program and found various ways to entertain themselves with the tinsel garland of their costumes.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Freshly crowned Lucia, Olivia Bergman, 14, of Stratford, is all smiles as she greets the congregation Saturday during the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church.

They were cute, it was delightful and, yes, they did manage to crown a new Lucia.

She is Olivia Bergman, 14, of Stratford.

“I didn’t think I was going to get it,” she said.

For Bergman, the best part of the day was the reaction she was expecting from her grandmother, Sue Bergman, of Stratford.

“It makes my grandma really happy,” she said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lucia Maidens, Alli Milleson, 4, of Boone, at left, along with Gracelynn Zenk, 5, of Stratford, work on stealing the show Saturday during the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church.

After the festival, in good Swedish tradition, there was coffee, cookies and treats. Bergman got to pass out the Lussekatter, which are also known as St. Lucia Buns. The buns are flavored with saffron.

The 2022 Lucia, Bailey Anderson, of Paton, shared the story of St. Lucia.

“Her legend stems from Italy,” she said. “There are many stories and legends of how the legend of Lucia came to Sweden, and while much of her story is woven in the world of myth and legend, we do know that the Swedes now embrace her and love to celebrate St. Lucia Day.”

The Swedish tradition began in the 1920s when a newspaper in Stockholm held a contest to choose a Lucia to represent the city, she explained. The custom then spread.

“Today, over 100 years later, Lucia is celebrated in practically every Swedish home and community,” she said. “Each December 13th young girls awaken early in the morning. Usually the eldest daughter, she will dress in a white gown, red sash and with a crown of candles on her head, she’ll serve saffron buns, pepparkakor, coffee and glogg to her parents.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Carrying a Christmas sheaf, freshly crowned Lucia, Olivia Bergman, 14, of Stratford, leads the procession after the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church. Lucia candidate Becca Anderson, 16, of Paton, at left, and last year's Lucia, Bailey Anderson, 18, of Paton, at right, follow her out.

That last part, the early morning thing — for both Anderson and Bergman, isn’t happening.

“I’ll take a soft pass.” Bergman said.

The event is sponsored by the Swedish Foundation of Iowa’s “Swede Bend” Settlement, Inc.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lucia maiden, Gracelynn Zenk, 5 of Stratford, gives the Julbok a kiss Saturday afternoon during the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lucia maiden, Gracelynn Zenk, 5, of Stratford, looks up to the Lucia candidates Saturday as the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light gets started at Stratford Lutheran Church.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lucia candidate Becca Anderson, 16, of Paton, makes her way down the aisle Saturday afternoon during the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lucia candidate Olivia Bergman, 14. of Stratford, makes her way down the aisle Saturday afternoon during the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church. Bergman was crowned Lucia a few moments later.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lucia maiden Alli Milleson, 4, of Boone, makes her way down the aisle with her straw star Saturday afternoon during the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Joni Stark-Miller talks about the "Christmas sheaf" the finest bundle of wheat from the harvest during the 2023 Lucia Festival of Light at Stratford Lutheran Church.

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