Lucia is an ancient figure in Swedish mythology. She’s said to bring light to the dark Swedish winters.
On Monday, she’ll be bringing that light to Merewether. Not that we really need it. We’re saturated with light at this time of year. But that’s not the point.
The point is to build relations between Novocastrians and Swedes.
Sweden’s Ambassador to Australia Pär Ahlberger will be in Merewether to help the local Swedish community mark the holiday of Lucia, also known as Saint Lucy’s Day. It’s a traditional event that celebrates light during the long, dark winter.
St Lucia (or St Lucy) was a Christian saint who was killed by the Romans in the third century for her religious beliefs. It’s believed she took food to persecuted Christians hiding in caves. She wore candles on her head to light the way, so she could have both hands free to carry food.
This is why the Swedish ceremony features a girl with a crown of candles on her head.
So, on Monday at 5.30pm at Merewether Uniting Church, the local Swedish community will gather to sing Swedish Christmas songs and form a candlelight parade.
Kevin Sobel-Read, the Swedish School in Newcastle’s president, invited the public to the free event.
Swedish TV and IKEA
Kevin Sobel-Read is a unique character. He may be president of the Swedish School in Newcastle, but he’s not actually Swedish. He’s American.
However, he went to university in Sweden and speaks Swedish.
We were quite fascinated to hear that he speaks only Swedish to his kids, who are aged 9 and 12.
“It’s partly because I like languages and partly for political reasons,” Kevin said.
Kevin, his wife and their kids are all Americans. He believes that speaking another language expands horizons.
“The US is very insular, it’s very US-focused. Most Americans are unaware there’s a world beyond the US. I wanted them [his kids] to be aware,” he said.
And so, his kids go to the Swedish school once a week.
“They’re fluent. We watch Swedish TV,” he said.
His interest in Scandinavia began as a teenager.
“I’d been an exchange student at age 15. I had a wanderlust. I lived in the very north of Finland with a family for a year, which was character-building to say the least,” he said.
He stayed in a place not far from the Arctic Circle.
“I ended up going to Sweden almost every day,” he said.
“Things were cheaper over there. I came back to the States and finished high school and was ready to keep exploring the world.”
Nowadays, he works at the University of Newcastle as a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law. That is, when he’s not helping further relations between Newcastle and Sweden. Which, we might add, first began in 1840 when a Swedish ship named Mary Ann arrived in Newcastle to export coal to Chile.
So, with Novocastrian-Swedish relations being so cosy, can Kevin work with the ambassador to bring an IKEA to Newcastle?
There’s already been a bit of talk about IKEA establishing a store in Boolaroo. Over to you, ambassador.
Llamas for reindeer
Speaking of unique Christmas rituals, llamas have been spotted filling in for reindeer in Beaumont Street at Hamilton.
“We had a very special visit from Santa and his llamas,” Hamilton Now said on Facebook.