ANDERSONVILLE — Andersonville will embrace its Swedish roots with the Festival of Lights Tuesday.
The festival commemorates St. Lucia's Day, which is held traditionally on Dec. 13 in Scandinavian countries. Saint Lucia was one of the earliest Christian martyrs, according to Encyclopedia Brittanica.
"The original Lucia liked to take care of poor people and those who couldn't take care of themselves. [She would] bring joy," said Karin Abercrombie, executive director of the Swedish American Museum.
In Scandinavia, the festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season and "is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year," according to Encyclopedia Brittanica.
In Sweden, the tradition is geared toward the elderly and held in churches, where young people would greet the seniors with coffee and food, she said.
"It was fun for the teenagers to do it together as a school assembly or youth group," Abercrombie said.
During the celebration, a St. Lucia designee is chosen to lead the procession for the Festival of Lights. In big Scandinavian cities, people vote for candidates they know, but for the Chicago procession the designee is chosen from a hat, she said.
The candidates, who are roughly between the ages of 16 and 25, represent various Swedish-American organizations around the area. There are usually between 5-15 candidates, she said.
The celebration begins at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., at 11:30 a.m. The freshly crowned Lucia leads the procession and is followed the other teens in all white gowns, Abercrombie said.
At 4:45 p.m., the festival moves to Andersonville with a procession leaving from the museum, 5211 N. Clark St. as store owners stand outside with candles to greet the Lucia, she said.
After the procession, participants are invited to a celebration at the museum featuring a telling of the Lucia legend, family entertainment and Swedish holiday treats, according to the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce website.
Admission to the festival is $1 or a can of food to be donated to Care For Real.
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