by James Garcia Jr.
Most residents of Kingsburg know there are a handful of events that are important to the City of Kingsburg, and more specifically to the downtown. If the Swedish Festival is number one, then the Santa Lucia Day celebration might be next. On Saturday, December 4, 2010, the Swedish Village once again opens up the downtown to a series of great events which not only recognize and honor the beautiful story of Lucia, but also usher in the Christmas season.
Just as there are many variations on the legend that is Santa Claus, the same can be said of Lucia. Since Kingsburg is the Swedish Village, it comes as no surprise that they would embrace the Scandinavian legend.
“A beautiful young girl, by the name of Lucia, lived in Sicily in the Third Century. She had a great love for Jesus Christ and a dedication to serve the poor and homeless. Wearing a crown of candles to light her way and to free her hands, she carried gifts of food to the persecuted Christians hiding in caves. Refusing to denounce her faith, she was martyred at the age of twenty. Viking explorers brought the story of Lucia back to Sweden,” shared Kingsburg business owner and town figure, June Hess.
“In the land of Sweden, Santa Lucia Day, December 13, opens the Christmas season with a colorful tradition,” continued June. “Very early in the morning, the oldest daughter of the household adorns herself in a long white gown, a red sash, and a glowing crown of candles. Singing the Lucia song, she awakens the family members, serving saffron buns and coffee at their bedsides. The Festival of Santa Lucia brings to the world a gift of hope and light at the darkest time of the year.”
The Swedish Village of Kingsburg has adopted this tradition by celebrating Santa Lucia Day on the first Saturday of every December. The day will begin with a pageant including June Hess’ daughter, Linnea, and a group of eight to nine attendants. Adorned in white gowns, carrying candles and singing the Santa Lucia song in Swedish, they will visit the local restaurants serving breakfast between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m.From 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., the shops along Draper Street will be open. Lining the street, arts, crafts and baked goods will be available between 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Santa Claus will be on hand. There will be a Cancer Volunteers Chicken Dinner between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. at Kingsburg Community Church on the corner of Smith and Ellis Streets. The ninth annual Gingerbread House Contest will take place at the Kingsburg branch of the Fresno County Library on the corner of Draper and Marion Streets. The evening will culminate with the Festival of Lights Parade at 5:30 p.m.
“This year the parade will be required to navigate around the community tree which has been placed by the City in the street between Marion and Smith streets,” said Jess Chambers, Executive Director of the Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce. “Otherwise, [we’ll have] the same features of sidewalk vendors, featuring handcrafted items and food. As always, we honor veterans [by] beginning the procession on Draper Street with the color guard, solemnly posting the American flag, followed by the meaningful and solemn Lucia pageantry, which includes the reading of the Lucia story and singing of the Lucia song in Swedish.”
During the afternoon, the Kingsburg High School Dickens Carolers will make an appearance, treating visitors to the songs of the season. Reigning Swedish Festival Queen, Hannah Zentner, will also be on hand.
“I will be at the front or near the front for the Santa Lucia parade. It’s all a part of my duties. I have always loved participating in the Santa Lucia Festival. Everyone dresses warmly and [it’s] starting to get exciting and ready for Christmas,” said Hannah.
The event is sponsored by Salazar’s Grill & Bar, Adventist Health, The Rotary Club of Kingsburg, Comfort Keepers, Berman’s Flowers and Gifts, with the support of the Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce.
When asked about the importance of keeping the Lucia traditions, Jess added, “It reflects on some of the original heritage of the community with its Swedish roots and the Christian/evangelical heritage which came with [it].”