Saint Lucia is said to be one of the earliest saints.
As early as the sixth century she was venerated as a virgin martyr. Legends say that during Sweden’s terrible famine, a young woman dressed in white named Lucia came to offer help. She later suffered a gruesome martyrdom in order to remain a virgin and serve the poor. Later her duties where celebrated throughout Sweden as the feast day of Lucia, and is celebrated as a festival of lights.
Cultivated by Swedish founders, the Bethlehem Lutheran Church exemplifies their heritage by celebrating St. Lucia with an annual festival.
This year will be the 64th annual St. Lucia Festival.
“This festival marks the beginning of the Sweden Christmas season,” said Marcia Hanes, member of the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. “It is a festival of light because Sweden is very dark this time of year.”
The festival will be held Sunday, Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. There is no admission fee, and it isn’t a church service. Hanes says the festival features bridesmaids carrying candles, star girls, tompte gubbars, baker boys and the Lucia bride which will be Alina Gayeuski, Intern Pastor at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
There will also be a variety of music provided by organist Bob Kraus, who will be doing a duet with Dr. Paul Fehrenbach. Kevin Hanes and Bob Froberg will be performing a duet of “Silent Night” along with Bev Yates who will also be doing a solo. There will be performances by an ensemble from the Elk County Concert Choir, the Bethlehem Lutheran Choir, the Lutheran Bell Choir, and the Children’s Choir.
Keeping true to their traditions, the festival hasn’t been reformed much over the years. Annie Lovell recalls back four decades to when she was the bride of Lucia.
“I was the bride back in 1968,” Lovell said. “Then my daughter was the bride 40 years later. Not much has changed over the years.”
The Bethlehem Lutheran Church celebrates Saint Lucia each year because it is tradition, and it revels their heritage.
“Lutheran is the primary religion of Sweden,” Hanes said. “It has become a tradition because many of our members are of Swedish heritage, and it is just something to look forward to.”
Pick up a copy of the Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.