The Festival of Sankta Lucia honors women and men with character traits of mercy, humility and purity of heart. The Sankta Lucia Festival will be held in the Samuelson Chapel on Dec. 10 at 11:25 a.m.
The festival is a Swedish tradition celebrated in all of the Nordic countries every year on Dec. 13. to pay homage to St. Lucy, a Christian martyr who died at the stake on Dec. 13 304 A.D.
Five male and five female undergraduate students are chosen by vote for those that best represent their depth of character and leadership to California Lutheran University’s community.
The tradition was brought to the United States by the Swedish immigrants and eventually came to Cal Lutheran where this celebration has become an important part of the university’s Christmas celebration.
“The Sankta Lucia celebration is one of the oldest traditions at Cal Lutheran,” Anna Berg said, a junior biochemistry major and the president for the Scandinavian club at Cal Lutheran. “CLU has a very strong Scandinavian heritage, and so it’s very fitting that we celebrate Sankta Lucia.”
The Sankta Lucia celebration at Cal Lutheran has been a part of the university from early on, and it has changed and adapted over the years to become what it is today.
“It continues to keep us connected to some early roots of the university,” Pastor Scott Maxwell-Doherty said. “We are a young University, so hanging on to some of the earliest traditions is a very important thing.”
Dr. Ernst F. Tonsing has led the Sankta Lucia Festival for over 25 years. He said that a man named Armor Nelson had experienced the tradition of Sankta Lucia throughout his childhood and brought the tradition of Sankta Lucia to Cal Lutheran, and it has continued every year.
Tonsing said the Sankta Lucia Festival has not always been as graceful as it is today.
“The difficulty is that when I came, [The Sankta Lucia Festival] was in the evening and it was coupled with a dorm caroling contest,” Tonsing said. “Very quickly that became the routiest and most awful event on campus, it was terrible.”
After Tonsing realized the Sankta Lucia Festival and the dorm caroling contest was out of hand, he went around and knocked on doors and got the Sankta Lucia Festival separated from the caroling contest and moved into the chapel.
After the Sankta Lucia Festival was moved to the chapel, Tonsing wrote and adapted the program.
Maxwell-Doherty said he thinks the changes in the Sankta Lucia program over the years have been positive.
“[The Sankta Lucia Festival] has changed a little bit over the years in some very important and delightful ways,” Maxwell-Doherty said. “Now, the representation that we see is that the individuals that are selected to the court by their peers have character traits that the university hopes many students have.”
The process of choosing who get’s to be Sankta Lucia is done through voting. In this process, students write down the name of someone from their own class year that they think have an inspirational character.
“The intent is to select a person who has exhibited charity towards other people and who has been active in many of the organizations on campus that help other people,” Tonsing said.
Any student can be chosen to be part of the Sankta Lucia Festival and no one runs for it, you must be chosen by your peers.
“That’s the critical difference between running for something and being selected by your peers,” Maxwell-Doherty said. “Here you are selected by your peers, everybody’s name is open to selection and nobody runs for this.”
“It’s a little bit like the King and Queen of homecoming,” Tonsing said. “It’s a little bit different, and it’s certainly a great honor.”
As President for the Scandinavian club, Berg has been a part of organizing the Sankta Lucia Festival.
“We have worked with Pastor Scott and campus ministry to help organize this event,” Berg said. “We’ve helped with the voting process, promoted it and made announcements on various school events.”
Maxwell-Doherty thinks it’s great how the Sankta Lucia court is selected based on their character traits.
“When students start to look at peers that they admire and then nominate, then that’s a different worldview, and I like that a lot more,” Maxwell-Doherty said.
At the celebration, the student chosen to be Sankta Lucia also gets an opportunity to speak to the audience about her values and how these values affect her life and her time at Cal Lutheran.
Published December 9th, 2015