It is traditional in Sweden to sing a Sankta Lucia song with the same melody as the well-known Italian song; the text, however, is quite different. The Swedish song is about the girl who is wearing the candleson her head (we use real candles in our ceremony in Raleigh, NC). The Italian song ("Sul mare luccica...") is about the *place* Santa Lucia, on the Bay of Naples a bit out from the city (check your maps); its chorus "Venite all'agile barchetta mia" is clearly not about Swedish ritual figures.
Dunkelheit liegt so schwer,
auf allem Leben.
Sonne die scheint nicht mehr.
Durch dunkle Stub´ und Stall
schreitet im Lichterstrahl.
Sancta Lucia, Sancta Lucia.
Nacht war so groß und stumm,
Bald flieht die Dunkelheit
rund gård och stuva;
kring jord, som sol förlät,
Då i vårt mörka hus,
stiger med tända ljus,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.
Natten går stor och stum
Mörkret ska flykta snart
|The night goes with weighty step|
round yard and (stove i.e. house, hearth?)
round earth, the sun departs
leave the woods brooding
There in our dark house,
appears with lighted candles
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.
The night goes great and mute
The darkness shall soon depart
Swedish Translation into English courtesy of Paul W.
And now the Italian text, with all its stanzas:
|Sul mare luccica l'astro d'argento|
Placida è l'onda, prospero è il vento.(repeat both)
Venite all'agile barchetta mia!
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! (2x)
Con questo zeffiro così soave,
O dolce Napoli, o suol beato,
Or che tardate? Bella è la sera
The silver star shines on the sea,|
The waves are calm, the wind is favorable
Come to my quick little boat!
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!
With this west wind so gentle,
Oh sweet Naples, oh blessed sun,
Now why do you delay? The evening is beautiful
Translation courtesy of Lydia Rende
Now I ask you: Have you ever seen more beautiful words than these, for a song? As you see, the Italian text has no connection at all with the Swedish text. Oh yes, please note the convention that, in Italian, when two vowels become contiguous in a word sequence, they are commonly fused together (especially important in songs). Thus in "prospero e il vento" the final -o in prospero merges with the e that follows and also with the vowel of "il"--so that the -o e il is really sung as one syllable. Very frequently (but not always) in such vowel merges, all you hear is the last of the vowels. Anyway, since you all know the tune (hey, I'm a southerner!), you'll discover that you HAVE to do this vowel merging in order for the text to fit the melody.
Back to the Swedish song: at least as practiced by Swedes in Raleigh (and second, third-generation Swedes), the song is sung by a group of people while the young girl who is this year's Santa Lucia comes out, wearing the candles on her head, dressed (as is all her entourage) in white; then behind her come the traditional figures (the baker-boy, tomten, the girls, all the kids in the show). Sorry, but every year I weep when this happens because I am so moved, and I am not even Swedish.
Sid Smith, UNC-Chapel Hill
Return to Customs Page or St. Lucia page.