MADISON, NJ - On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 9, the Dalarna-Blaklockan Scandinavian Children’s Club held their 44th annual Santa Lucia Christmas Pageant at the Community House in Madison. Many families of Scandinavian and Swedish descent attended the event at which children danced and sang traditional Christmas and Lucia songs.  Erika Pedersen portrayed Lucia.

The festival of Santa Lucia begins before dawn, on Dec. 13, which under the old Julian calendar (used in Sweden before 1753) was Christmas Day and the longest night of the year. Throughout Sweden, the eldest daughter in each household comes to her sleeping parents, dressed in a long white gown tied with a red sash, and wearing a crown of lingonberry leaves in which are set seven lighted candles. The procession includes her sisters and brothers also dressed in white, holding lighted candles, and singing of the light and joy of Christmas.

The sisters of the Lucia Bride wear a wreath of tinsel in their hair and a piece tied around their waist, while the boys have tall pointed caps sprinkled with stars. Awakened by the lights and the singing, the parents arise and eat the breakfast served, thus ushering in the Christmas season.

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The Club teaches children learn about folk dancing and Scandinavian cultures and traditions.  

Sunday's event has taken place at churches in New Providence and Morristown in the past, but this year, for the first time it was held at the Community House.

Erika Johansson, who is the club leader, came to the United States ten years ago from Sweden.  She and her family heard about Vasa Order of America, which is a Swedish-American fraternal society that has lodges throughout the country and one in New Providence. She teaches the children once a week at the New Providence Library about Scandinavian customs and traditions.

“I think the kids like it,” Johansson said.

She said the event is always fun with a great turnout, but it doesn’t compare to the all-day celebrations that take place in Sweden on Dec. 13.

“We just take every opportunity to celebrate,” she said.

Hillsborough resident Agneta Coutts, who is also from Sweden, said her three children have participated in the pageant a few times and always have fun. Her kids go to the Swedish School in Basking Ridge and learn about their culture.

“I think it is wonderful because it’s very traditional,” she said. “It’s a very nice celebration.”  

Tina Hansen of Chatham is new to the area after moving from Denmark a year ago. She wanted to keep her Scandinavian culture alive for her two sons, so she signed them up for the club and said it’s been a lot of fun so far.

“It’s nice to have something like this where they can go back to the culture and traditions,” Hansen said.