Tag Archives: Denmark

It’s a question of… Sankta Lucia and candles

Last years not-so-fantastic Lucia buns

Today, the 13th December, I’ll be making yellow buns, twisting them into strange forms and sticking raisins in them. It’s part of a Scandinavian tradition that also involves young girls dressed in white, walking around with candles and singing.

These joyous celebrations are made in honour of Lucia, patron saint of the city of Syracuse in Italy – which in itself can seem a little strange as the nominal religion in Scandinavia is protestant, and protestants don’t “believe” in catholic saints.

It’s said that Lucia was condemned to be burnt for not wanting to marry a pagan. But she resisted the fire. Another story says she secretly took food to the poor at night and carried a crown of candles on her head so she could see where she was going. A third story has her taking out her eyes to convert a Prince to Christianity. All stories somehow make it possible to connect her with light – and that’s important. Because the 13th December is not only the day Lucia died (a sword finally got her), it was also known as the shortest day of the year (before the Gregorian calendar was adopted), the winter solstice, which of course has pagan roots. In other words, saint or no saint, Lucia is the bearer of light and Lucia Day a celebration of the days getting longer again.

Sofia Hogmark, Lucia of Sweden 2009

Lucia Day is celebrated in all of the Nordic countries, but is probably taken most seriously in Sweden. Every year there’s a national competition to chose the Lucia of the year (think Miss Sweden without the bathing suits) and most towns have their own local Lucia competition.

When I was a small girl in Denmark, our school (like most others) organized a Lucia procession each year. We all wanted to be the Lucia bride – that’s the girl who leads and who gets to carry a crown of candles on her head (the others just follow holding a single candle). But, at the time, the “politically correct” had not yet been installed and only blond longhaired girls had a chance of getting elected – which excluded me.

A danish version, as I remember it…

The shorthaired and/or dark haired girls got their vengeance later, when the Lucia bride cried as teachers combed candle wax out of her hair or, in some cases, because her hair was burnt… (I’m told that nowadays, battery driven candles are used instead of real ones).

However odd the Sankta Lucia celebration may seem, I love it. So, as my neighbours light their third Hanukkah candle today, we’ll be lighting our third advent candle (another protestant ritual – also done on a crown…) and a whole lot other candles for Lucia, whatever her real story might be. Maybe it all comes down to what the Chinese say: “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness”…

A more “professional” swedish version of the Lucia song…

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It’s a question of… Copenhagen (and media coverage)

The famous tourist poster created by Viggo Vagnby in the 1950's

Today the capital of Denmark will become the centre of the world. But as the Copenhagen climate summit 2009 begins, so does the media coverage – with all its merits and flaws.

It will come as no surprise that however important this summit is for the planet (and I believe it is), only half of the news reports from Copenhagen will be about climate change, global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.

Why? Because when you’re a journalist and you’ve been sent to an event that goes on for ten days, there will be times where finding new topics to report about will lead you down deceiving paths. Mostly, the roads already taken.

While you wait for the world leaders to find some kind of consensus, your newsroom is waiting for… news. And you can only give percentages, talk about who’s there and who’s not and interview scientists so many times.

Of course, there will have to be reports about the security, the activists roaming outside and the planned demonstrations. But once you’ve covered this – and unless of course there’s any unfortunate event in this area – well, you’ll have to find something else to report about (other than the food and accommodation being offered to journalists and delegates – which, frankly, who cares?).

Now let’s see… When Denmark was recently, and once again, elected the happiest place in the world to live, journalists from all over were sent there to find out why. I watched a few of these programs and was stunned by the naïve use of stereotypes.

Ok, so Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize pornography  – but that was 50 years ago! Still, journalists find it necessary to state that Danes are all naked on the beaches (women aren’t even topless anymore), that going to swinger clubs is a common thing (certainly no more common than in the UK or France) – oh, and that no one locks their bikes (yeah, right…). Of course, there is also always a mention about same-sex unions (legalized 20 years ago… so, again, old news) and the prams left “unattended” on the sidewalks.

When watching reports from the Copenhagen climate summit these next ten days, you should therefore expect reports about: anything related to sex and nakedness, deprived over-tolerant, over-liberal Danes who drink beer and allow their children to do anything, and probably also bikes (a topic that can be adapted to the summit: massive Danish bike-riding = fight against the worlds global warming). Take all this with a pinch of salt. The “there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark” was a concept Shakespeare invented some 400 years ago, without ever visiting the country.

I hear now on the radio that the Copenhagen climate summit has officially opened. And media coverage has begun: today, you can read and hear about prostitutes offering free sex to UN-delegates in Copenhagen. So much for global warming.

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