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.
Nachtschatten schweben.
Durch dunkle Stub´ und Stall
schreitet im Lichterstrahl.
Sancta Lucia, Sancta Lucia.

Nacht war so groß und stumm,
nun hört ein Brausen
ums stille Haus herum
wie Flügelrauschen.
Seht dort, wie wunderbar,
kommt her mit Licht und Haar
Sancta Lucia, Sancta, Lucia.

Bald flieht die Dunkelheit
aus dieser Welt.
Bald steigt dieser Tag erneut,
vom Himmelszelt.
welch wunderbarer Geist,
der uns dies Licht verheißt:
Sancta Lucia, Sancta Lucia.

Natten går tunga fjät
rund gård och stuva;
kring jord, som sol förlät,
skuggorna ruva.
Då i vårt mörka hus,
stiger med tända ljus,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Natten går stor och stum
nu hörs dess vingar
i alla tysta rum
sus som av vingar.
Se, på vår tröskel står
vitklädd med ljus i hår
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Mörkret ska flykta snart
ur jordens dalar
så hon ett underbart
ord till oss talar.
Dagen ska åter ny
stiga ur rosig sky
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

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
now hear it swings
in every silent room
murmurs as if from wings.
Look at our threshold stands
white-clad with lights in her hair
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

The darkness shall soon depart
from the earth's valleys
thus she speaks
a wonderful word to us
The day shall rise anew
from the rosy sky.
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

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,
oh! com'è bello star sulla nave!(repeat both)
Su passeggeri, venite via!
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! (2x)

O dolce Napoli, o suol beato,
ove sorridere volle il creato!(repeat both)
Tu sei l'impero dell'armonia!
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! (2x)

Or che tardate? Bella è la sera
Spira un'auretta fresca e leggera.(repeat both)
Venite all'agile barchetta mia,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia! (2x)

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, how wonderful it is to be at sea!
Come passengers, come away!
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Oh sweet Naples, oh blessed sun,
where creation wished to smile!
You are the command of harmony!
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!

Now why do you delay? The evening is beautiful
A cool and light wind is blowing
Come to my quick little boat!
Santa Lucia!Santa Lucia!

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

  • Swedish version of song with melody. Search Youtube!

    Return to Customs Page or St. Lucia page.