Sunday, December 14, 2014

Misc. notes on Sankta Lucia celebration in Chicago


Sankta Lucia girls (right center) singing in Andersonville business district

Chicago free-lance writer Matt Beardmore had a Dec. 10 pre-story headlined "In Chicago, Lights for St. Lucia" on a New York Times blog linked to the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce's Facebook page:

“The crowning of the Lucia girl and the procession would usually take place the same day, but with Dec. 13 being on the weekend this year, it will take place over two days,” said Karin Moen Abercrombie, executive director of the Swedish American Museum in Andersonville and a native of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The celebration in Chicago begins Friday morning in Daley Plaza, where one of the “Lucia” hopefuls (all unmarried women between 16 and 24 years old and sponsored by a Swedish or Swedish-American organization or company) will be chosen to wear the crown of lights.
And this:

They, along with children dressed as Pepparkaksgubbar (gingerbread men), Tomtar (Santas) and Stjarngossar (star boys), will sing songs, including the traditional “Lucia Song,” as business owners along the route typically will stand outside with a candle, Ms. Abercrombie said.

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When the procession returns to the museum, the participants will perform a 30- to 45-minute program, which will include, as the Swedish American Museum website says, “the telling of a Lucia legend, family entertainment by Dream Big Performing Arts, and Swedish holiday treats including traditional ‘pepparkakor’ ginger snaps.” The cost of admittance is $1 or a canned good. The group will then perform the same program at 7 p.m. at the Ebenezer Lutheran Church, which was organized by Andersonville’s Swedish immigrants in 1892., an informational website maintained by the Swedish Institute\, Business Sweden, VisitSweden and the Swedish government, has this background: "The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 1900s, when schools and local associations in particular began promoting it. The old lussegubbar custom [sort of like English wassailing, but drunker -- cf. Hallowe'en pranks] virtually disappeared with urban migration, and white-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past. Stockholm proclaimed its first Lucia in 1927."

Ebenezer Lutheran Church 1650 W. Foster Ave., has an interesting history of the neighborhood and its transformation from an ethnic enclave to a multicultural neighborhood open to different ethnicities and lifestyles:

Ebenezer Lutheran Church was organized as a congregation of the Augustana Lutheran Synod on January 20, 1892 by the Swedish immigrants of Andersonville (Edgewater). At the height of the immigration period of the twentieth century, the congregation grew to nearly 2000 members. At that time the congregation was a center of religion, culture, and family activity for this new Swedish community. The present sanctuary was completed in 1908 and the additions were added in 1929. The congregation continued as a member of the Lutheran Church in America in the early 1960’s and subsequently as a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America when it was formed in 1988. During the pastorate of Theodore Matson, during the mid-1950’s, the mission and ministry of the congregation began to perceive that its mission and ministry extended beyond the Swedish community.

This new direction was enhanced, as Andersonville became less Swedish and more multi-cultural. …

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The Sunday worship is a lively expression of the Christian tradition utilizing original music and music from around the world, a variety of instrumentation, and intentional lay leadership alongside the pastor. Currently the Swedish heritage of the congregation is maintained primarily during December. On December 13th, the Swedish-American community meets in the evening to observe St. Lucia Day. A Julgudstjanst, or Christmas service in Swedish,is held in the afternoon the Sunday before Christmas in partnership with the office of the Consulate General of Sweden.

Kevin Pang, "Christmas at Svea: Lutefisk and a song." Chicago Tribune December 22, 2011. From interview w/ Tom Martin, then 79, proprietor in 2011:

A hundred years ago, Chicago was home to more Swedes than any city outside Stockholm, and many immigrants lived in Andersonville. These days, restaurants along the 5000 block of North Clark Street represent Japan, the Middle East, Carolina Lowcountry and whatever Swedish remnants of yore remain in a handful of delis, bakeries and diners. The Svea space had been a restaurant as far back as the 1930s.

Martin was retired when the opportunity to own a restaurant suddenly presented itself. Martin called it a career in 1994 after 36 years working for a railroad company. In retirement, he became so bored at home he was organizing his wife's Tupperware for fun. The same year, his son Scott bought Simon's Tavern, an Andersonville staple since 1934. At his wife's urging to get out of the house, Martin became a daytime bartender at Simon's.

Martin befriended Kurt Mathiasson, who opened Svea in 1972 and was the founder of the Swedish American Museum across the street. Their friendship was strong enough that when Mathiasson was dying of cancer, he offered to sell the restaurant to Martin for a good price because he didn't want Svea — it means Mother of Sweden — to close. It has been almost 12 years since Martin took over.

"It's a fluke," Martin said. "But do I regret it? No way."

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