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Sankta Lucia – angels with burnt hair

The procession of singing girls dressed in white while holding candles in their hands is actually a beautiful December tradition. If you do not have children in schools that uphold the tradition – find here a few tips on how to experience it.

By Bente D. Knudsen

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As with so many December traditions, the one of the Saint Lucia Bride is not a Danish invention. Most Danes will know that the tradition of the Lucia bride on the 13 of December is a Swedish one, however, the younger generation may have forgotten it.

The tradition came to Denmark during World War 2, when the Nordic Association “Forening Norden” introduced it in 1944.

All Danish schools still uphold it. Early in the morning, either on the 13th or the first morning after that if it is on a weekend, a procession of singing girls, all dressed in white, holding candles in their hands, walk through the school singing the “Sankta Lucia” song.

Lucia walks gracefully in the front, head held up high (and straight) since she bears a crown with four lit candles in her hair. In recent years, the candle crown has become electric to avoid any burnt hair, but the candles held by the children in their hands can easily be the real thing.

It used to be a girls only event, however in modern times, boys participate as well.

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In Copenhagen a range of churches also celebrate Sankta Lucia – and one of the more spectacular ones is the one at Helligaandskirken in the morning of the 13 December at  8:00  and  8:45 respectively.

In this church 65 girls from the choir at Sankt Annæ School will walk through the church in a magnicifent and very beautiful Lucia procession, adding in Christmas songs and carols. Each event takes 20 minutes and is with free entrance. Helligaandskirken, Niels Hemmingsens Gade 5, Copenhagen K.

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Of course Tivoli, being open, also has its own Lucia procession, on the 13 December at 17:30 when 100 singing boys and girls from several parishes (Frederiksberg Sogns Pigekor, Dragør Kirkes Børne- og Ungdomskor, Vesterbro Sogns Ungdomskor and Brønshøj Kirkes Pigekor)  walk through the Christmas clad park. The procession starts and ends at the H.C.Andersen castle inside Tivoli. Tivoli, Vesterbrogade 3.

Or visit our Lady’s Church, Vor Frue Kirke in the city centre. On 13 December at 17:00 teenagers from Zahles Gymnasieskole will walk through Copenhagen’s main cathedral during the so-called  musical service. The Vesterbro Chamber Choir will sing during the procession and the service. Vor Frue Kirke 13 December at 17:00, Nørregade 8, Copenhagen K.

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You can also experience the Lucia procession in the churches of Vesterbro in Copenhagen on Sunday 9 December at 17:00. They start from Mariakirken at Istedgade 20, Copenhagen V and walk through the streets to Sct. Matthæus Kirke. The public is welcome to follow in the procession’s footsteps.

You can find more suggestions for Lucia processions in the guide made by the Copenhagen Churches here.

Alternativ Luciaprocessions can be found on water, as kajak clubs in several towns also invite the public to their events:

Copenhagen: 13 December at 17:00 at Nyhavn, Christianshavn and at Højbro Plads.

Aarhus:  13 December at 18:00 from Aarhus Kano and Kajakklub by Kystpromenaden.

In Aarhus you can also listen and watch  a Lucia procession at 16:30 on top of  the Aros artmuseum ( at Regnbuen)

Find below a video showing the Lucia procession in Helligåndskirken with the choir fromt Sankt Annæ School.