Jessi Erin Robinson, 16, plays the part of Sankta Lucia, marking the beginning of the Christmas season for the Swedish community in Red Deer. (Jonathan Guignard/Advocate staff)

Swedish community celebrates the holiday season

Sankta Luci was a third-century martyr who brought food and aid to Christians.

Kerstin Guillemaud never imagined that moving to Red Deer two years ago from the West Coast would allow her to share one of her favourite childhood traditions.

Guillemaud, a native of Sweden, moved to Canada 35 years ago and on Sunday celebrated the beginning of the Christmas season through the Scandinavian story of Sankta Lucia at the Chalet at Westerner Park.

“This is so special. Some of the ladies who organize this weren’t even born in Sweden, so for them to put this on is totally amazing,” said Guillemaud.

Sankta Lucia, according to the legend, was a third-century martyr who brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs. She used a candle-lit wreath to light the way, leaving her hands free to carry as much food as possible.

Growing up, Guillemaud said the tradition was just something that was part of the Swedish culture.

“You created your own little Lucia procession whether you were at school or at your workplace,” said Guillemaud.

Guillemaud said she remembers a story from when she was in Grade 4.

She and some girls from school surprised their teacher at her home and sang a number of traditional songs from the story of Sankta Lucia, while all dressed up.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” said Guillemaud.

Jessi Erin Robinson, a 16-year-old from Stettler, has played Lucia for the past two years, and although she wasn’t really familiar with the tradition when she started, she has come to enjoy playing the role of Sankta Lucia.

“It’s really nice. It’s small, but it’s peaceful and really gets me in the Christmas spirit,” said Robinson.

Robinson has been singing for about 11 years and says the opportunity to get out in the community and sing is something she doesn’t take for granted.

“For things like this, there’s a lot of satisfaction. Volunteering when you know people really enjoy it, is something that I personally enjoy too,” said Robinson.

Swedish pastries and hot drinks were prepared for those who attended the event, which has been serving the Swedish community in Red Deer for over 30 years.

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