Illustration of a Skogsrå also known as Huldre dressed up at the Santa Lucia bride

Personal work: Sankta Lucia

Happy Saint Lucy’s Day! Growing up in Denmark we used to celebrate the day of Saint Lucy with a procession lead by a girl wearing a wreath with four candles on her head. She was called the Lucia Bride, the rest of the girls in the procession carried only a single candle. We would walk down the corridors of our school like this, dressed in white gowns while singing the Danish song of Saint Lucy.

I’ve long been wanting to do a piece based on this experience and I finally did this year. Granted the illustration took on a life of it’s own and ended up deviating from my original idea. I used a Skogsrå (Scandinavian Fairy Creature, also known as Huldra and Ellepige) to symbolize the joining of the old pagan culture and the Lutheran Christian Faith that the Scandinavian countries since then converted to. Here’s some background information for your pleasure:

Quote from Wikipedia: “Saint Lucia is one of the few saints celebrated by the overwhelmingly Lutheran Nordic people — Danes; Swedes; Finns and Norwegians. The St. Lucy’s Day celebrations retain many indigenous Germanic pagan, pre-Christian midwinter elements. Some of the practices associated with the day predate the adoption of Christianity in Scandinavia, and like much of Scandinavian folklore and even religiosity, is centered on the annual struggle between light and darkness.

The Nordic observation of St. Lucy is first attested in the Middle Ages, and continued after the Protestant Reformation in the 1520s and 1530s, although the modern celebration is only about 200 years old. It is likely that tradition owes its popularity in the Nordic countries to the extreme change in daylight hours between the seasons in this region.

The pre-Christian holiday of Yule, or jól, was the most important holiday in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Originally the observance of the winter solstice, and the rebirth of the sun, it brought about many practices that remain in the Advent and Christmas celebrations today. The Yule season was a time for feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and gatherings, but also the season of awareness and fear of the forces of the dark.”

And here is a Swedish video of the procession:

Kiri Østergaard Leonard

Award winning Illustrator, Artist and Creator Kiri Østergaard Leonard happily shares her experiences making a living as an artist and pursuing a creative life. She grew up in a tiny village in Denmark, left her country behind to pursue art in the bustle of New York City and now resides in the delightful weirdness of Austin, Texas surrounded by sunshine and felines.

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