by Tamsyn

December 13, 2017

Learn about Santa Lucia and Sweden

St. Lucia is a Nordic holiday celebrated in Norway, Finland, Denmark, and most especially in Sweden.  I was never really familiar with this holiday until last year, and I have been excited to to celebrate it with my children for almost a whole year- having discovered it after December 13th.

It doesn't take many YouTube clips to know that "Santa Lucia" is the hallmark song for this holiday.  And yet, I really struggled to find an Santa Lucia English Translation that I really liked.

Santa Lucia - English Translation

The problem is that the English translations I was finding did not match the rhyme and meter of the original.  Many of the translations used a little more creative license than I prefer, and those that were true to the original were hardly recognizeable as a poem.  In the end, I realized that if I wanted a good translation to teach my children, I would need to do it myself.  So I did!  And I'd love to share my translation with you, and I am open to feedback.  Naturally it is not a verbatim translation in order to match the rhyme and meter, but I did my best.  My husband suggested that I do a separate post on how to translate a song, and what makes a good translation, which I hope to do soon.  But today I want to talk a bit about St. Lucia Day, and the history behind it, simply because it's a fascinating subject to me.

Santa Lucia - English Translation

Night comes with heavy steps through our land, calling.
Sunlight, the earth forgets; shadows are falling.
However dark the night, rising with candles bright,
Santa Lucia!  Santa Lucia!

Though long may be the night, hope, she is bringing,
Hear now, the maid in white, silently winging,
Hushed wonder in the air, Lights glowing in her hair,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!

"The darkness soon shall flee valleys in shadow,
Sunlight I can foresee, over over the meadows,
The sun will come again!  Rise in the sky to reign!"
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!

Translated from Swedish by Tamsyn Spackman.  All rights reserved.

Night comes with heavy steps through our land, calling.
Sunlight, the earth forgets; shadows are falling.
However dark the night, rising with candles bright,
Santa Lucia!  Santa Lucia.

Though long may be the night, hope, she is bringing,
Hear now, the maid in white, silently winging,
Awed silence in the air, Lights glowing in her hair,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia.
"The darkness soon shall flee earth's darkened shadows,"
Such words she speaks to me, "Over the meadows,
The sun will come again!  Rise in the sky to reign!"
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia.

St. Lucia Day Overview

There is a fantastic two-minute video about St. Lucia Day for Kids that will demonstrate what St. Lucia Day is all about, especially for Swedes.  I highly recommend it, and maybe a few other online videos if you are curious.  But in a nutshell, the oldest daughter in the family dresses in a white dress with a red sash, and wears seven candles in her hair.  She wakes up early and serves a traditional breakfast treat to the other members of her family.  Later those representing St. Lucia will deliver gifts to the needy and everyone will celebrate the holiday together.  Other girls may dress as Lucia, but without the crown.  Boys dress as Star Boys, with white tunics to match the girls, and long, pointed hats with silver or golden stars.  Often little people will also dress up as gingerbread children.

2020 update- I wrote a little more about the holiday, and how I made St. Lucia Day crowns for my kids on my personal blog, Professional Mothering.

The Entities Behind St. Lucia

Who was St. Lucy?  She was a 3rd-century Catholic Saint from Italy.  According to legend, when her father wanted to force her into an unwanted marriage, she ran away and dedicated her life to God, and service to others.  There were Christians who were forced to live in hiding in the catacombs, and Lucy had the means and will to help them with their basic needs.  With so much work to do, she needed both hands free and devised a crown of candles, making her much more efficient.

However, a white-clad maiden with a crown of lights associated with the returning sun comes from the ancient Indo-Europeans.  While it can be very difficult to piece together the original beliefs and dieties here are three places to look.


Perchta, or Berchta, is a goddess who brought good fortune to those kind enough to help her when disguesed as a peasant.  She is the lady in white, associated with winter Yule, who brings toys and treats to good children, and would punish the bad. While she is infamous today for being a Christmas demon, originally she was very loved, and many historians think her negative side has been greatly exaggerated.


Brighid is a Celtic goddess associated with Imbolc (Candlemass/Groundhog Day), however her crown of seven candles, her association with the growing strength of the sun, and her descriptions as a beautiful goddess often clothed in white, make her relevant here.

Frau Holle

Frau Holle is a Germanic entity best remembered for the Grimms Fairy Tale where she makes it snow on the world when she fluffs her bed and the feathers fly.  However, her original role as the wife of Woden (Germany's Odin) make her a prominent goddess indeed.  She is associated with Yule and the Winter Hunt.

About the author 


My name is Tamsyn and I love music. I got my bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from USU. I spent many years teaching private piano lessons until I had children of my own. I have attended several children workshops on how to teach children music. I really like the Kodaly method, but have adapted a lot of different techniques for my own children.

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  1. I enjoyed reading this entire article. I have always loved the song, whether in Italian by an opera singer or in English by Elvis, and have always wondered about the words — Don’t speak Italian. Thank you.

  2. Tack ska ni ha! I loved this. Lived in Sweden for 2 Christmases in the mid 80s and LOVED the season, loved the Lucia procession. I learned many Christmas carols and hymns and still sing them today.
    Thanks for the write up and especially the video of the Lucia & choir! God Jul!!

  3. I am 94 and remember singing this song in grammer school. Born in, and lived in California all my life. Often have the tune and words "Santa Lucia" playing over in my mind (which is still good). Just wondering about it's origin. Thank you Norma

  4. I love you too much. Am a music lover I still need to learn more. I play lead guitar and keyboard. Please can u sent me some things to learn

  5. Thank you so much, I've been through a.dificult period.and this morning.riminised to when.I was 8 years old and used to sing Santa Lucia When I looked for. an English translation I found your video You day I'm sure I will repeatedly watch it.Thankyou again so much!

  6. This has been really helpful, thank you! My daughter has recently married a lovely man with links to Sweden (in Mallorca, with a Lutheran celebrant) and the marriage was legalised in the Swedish Church last weekend in London, where the couple chose this beautiful music to accompany the small service. They first met in the Swedish Church in Birmingham where they live and so this has helped me appreciate the significance of their service and music choice.

  7. Hi,
    Would it be possible to use your translation of Sankta Lucia for a commercial cd project for a fee?
    Thank you for considering!

  8. I have a granddaughter, almost one year old and a twin to her brother, Leo, and her name is Lucia! Thank you for the beautiful translation of this song. I’ll have to memorize the words and sing it to her!

  9. Hi Tamsyn! I sing songs for kids on youtube. May I use your translation if I give you credit? This is by far the best translation I’ve come across (I’m Swedish btw). Thanks 🙂

    1. Yes! And please share the link when you do! I'm so glad that this translation was useful- it's very validating to hear it was correct from someone who knows. 🙂

  10. Hi Tamsyn – I love this song and want to suggest it for my local women's community choir to sing next winter. I know people would find the Swedish difficult. If I can find someone to do an SSAA arrangement, may we use your english translation?
    Much appreciated if so.
    best wishes
    Sarah (Ealing, West London)

  11. When I learned to play the Lowrey organ as a 12 year old, the hymn "Santa Lucia" was included in my first song book. My Scottish father would sing along while I practiced. He especially liked this particular song and it has stuck with me many years. I am now 70.

    Watching and listening to this video was a very peaceful experience.
    I will come back to it whenever I want to set the scene for prayerful solace.

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