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Sankta Lucia celebrated at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church

Martha Carlson, who played Lucia, with her father, Gloria Dei's pastor Rev. David Carlson. (Photo by Alison Stucke)

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church of Duluth commemorated Sankta Lucia again this year following their worship service on Sunday, Dec. 11. In the fellowship hall of the former Faith Lutheran Church building at 51st Ave. East and Glenwood Street where Gloria Dei is currently meeting, Daphne Amundson spoke of the saint, historically from Italy and beloved in Scandinavia, who is known for bringing light and hospitality to people during the darkest time of the year.

"Lucia's name means 'light,' and when we celebrate Sankta Lucia, we celebrate not only the days that will soon start to lengthen, but also the warmth that comes from being in community with others," Amundson said.

Thirteen-year-old Martha Carlson played the role of Lucia, wearing a crown of candles on her head and carrying a platter of cardamom rolls as she led a procession of other children down the center of the hall. Martha is the daughter of Gloria Dei's pastor, Rev. David Carlson, and Stephanie Carlson. Girls dressed as Lucia's maids, and boys dressed as "star boys," followed. The watching audience sang these verses of the song "Santa Lucia" during the procession:

"Hark! Through the darksome night

Sounds come a winging:

Lo! 'tis the Queen of Light

Joyfully singing.

Clad in her garment white,

Wearing her crown of light,

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Deep in the northern sky

Bright stars are beaming:

Christmas is drawing nigh

Candles are gleaming

Welcome though vision rare,

Lights glowing in they.

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!"

Then, the maids and star boys distributed the fragrant cardamom rolls, specially baked by member Paul Steklenski, to audience members, who enjoyed them with coffee, punch, Clementines, and pickled herring, served by Paul and his wife, Linda Kalweit. It was a joyous and delicious celebration of light.

Along with Swedish Cultural Society in Duluth and other churches, Gloria Dei has a long tradition of observing Santa Lucia.

"More than being part of our heritage, though, it is Lucia's witness that is most meaningful to us, especially this year," said Pastor Carlson. "She lived in a time of many challenges, yet God empowered her to reflect the self-giving love of Christ, whose birth is celebrated as the light no darkness, tragedy, or hardship can overcome. It is such light and faith, such solidarity and resilient courage, we seek also to reflect in our ministry as we move forward and contemplate rebuilding."

Gloria Dei will celebrate this Christmas season — the first since its tragic fire last February, which left their building on Sixth Avenue East and Third Street unusable — at their current 51st Ave. East and Glenwood Street location. Christmas Eve Dec. 24 services will include 5 p.m. worship with Holy Communion, candlelight, and a children's message; and 10 p.m. worship (prelude music starts at 9:45 p.m.) with holy communion and candlelight. A live broadcast of the late service can be heard on WDSM Radio AM 710. At 10 a.m. on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, a service of "Lessons & Carols" with Holy Communion will be held. This service is patterned after the "Service of Nine Lessons & Carols" in Cambridge, England. Like all Sunday services, it will also be broadcast live on WDSM Radio AM 710. All are welcome to attend.

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