Last night I attended the Swedish Embassy’s “Lucia Reception” at the House of Sweden.
The House of Sweden is separate from the actual Swedish Embassy. In addition to the House of Sweden hosting several office suites of the embassies of Sweden and Iceland, it is also an event center that features conference and exhibition halls. The building is located on the Georgetown Waterfront along the Potomac River.
The reception was gorgeous. The venue was decked out with festive Christmas decorations, while also maintaining an understated elegance. The drinks and merriment were aplenty and the food spread was beyond incredible. The Swedish Ambassador and his wife delivered welcoming remarks and then a choir sang a few Swedish Christmas carols, as well as a couple of American favorites like “All I Want for Christmas” and “Silent Night”.
You’ll notice the girl in the middle wearing a wreath with candles, she is supposed to be Lucia/Lucy. St. Lucy is believed to have been a Sicilian saint who suffered a sad death in Syracuse, Sicily around AD 310.
There are a couple of interpretations of this story. According to Wikiepdia, the Guilte Legende, a widespread and influential compendium of saint’s biographies compiled in the late Middle Ages, records her story as this:
Lucia/Lucy was seeking help for her mother’s long-term illness at the shrine of Saint Agnes, in her native Sicily, when an angel appeared to her in a dream beside the shrine. As a result of this, Lucy became a devout Christian, refused to compromise her virginity in marriage and was denounced to the Roman authorities by the man she would have wed. They threatened to drag her off to a brothel if she did not renounce her Christian beliefs, but were unable to move her, even with a thousand men and fifty oxen pulling. So they stacked materials for a fire around her instead and set light to it, but she would not stop speaking, insisting that her death would lessen the fear of it for other Christians and bring grief to non-believers. One of the soldiers stuck a spear through her throat to stop these denouncements, but to no effect. Soon afterwards, the Roman consulate in charge was hauled off to Rome on charges of theft from the state and beheaded. Saint Lucy was able to die only when she was given the Christian sacrament.
St. Lucia/Lucy is venerated on December 13th in a ceremony where a girl is elected to portray her. The candles on the wreath symbolize the fire that refused to take St. Lucia’s life when she was sentenced to be burned.
It is commonly believed in Scandanavia that December 13th is the longest day of the year.
One of my favorites were the Swedish meatballs! Yum.
I tried the traditional Swedish Glogg, a warm alcoholic beverage comprised of mulled wine and vodka with spices, gingerbread and raisins. Glogg is usually served during the winter, especially on Christmas and Halloween.
The assortment of desserts was wonderful. I tried a piece of handmade chocolate, some rice pudding, and some gingerbread cookies.
All in all it was a great and educational night! The icing on the cake was my continued belief that it is a small world was affirmed when I ran into a sorority sister I hadn’t seen in about 7 years. It was nice to catch up with her and her husband (who I hadn’t met until then).
Sweden (or any of the Nordic countries for that matter) made its way onto my extensive “places I’d like to visit list”).
Have you ever been to Sweden or any of the Nordic countries?