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Head out of London for these dreamy Sankta Lucia celebrations

By Claire Wong

If you’ve had enough of thundering fireworks and gaudy Christmas lights over the past month, this gentle celebration of light might be a welcome respite. Make like the Swedes and join the Saint Lucia’s Day festivities.

In Scandinavia, the day is a big deal. Known as Sankta Lucia, it takes the form of a candlelit procession on December 13 to the Santa Lucia song.

Afterwards, there are more festive melodies with glowing singers clad all in white, one sporting a distinctive crown of real, flickering candles (which looks like the most festive health-and-safety issue ever).

The festival is based on the martyrdom of St Lucy, a young Sicilian who was executed in the fourth century. Nowadays she is a symbol of light during the long, dark winter. You glow, girl!

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London has a few (mainly sold out) Santa Lucia services this year, but it’s worth heading out of the city for atmospheric evenings like these. The huge, gothic York Minster is playing host to the Scandi celebration on December 7.

The seventh-century cathedral is one of the world’s most magnificent and it will be lit up with fluttering flames for a dreamy, and totally free, evening of traditional Swedish and Christmas songs.

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Visit Birmingham Cathedral on December 10 for more free candlelit carols or Edinburgh’s St John’s Church on December 13, where profits will go to local homeless charities. Just add a steaming mug of glögg to achieve peak midwinter glädje. 

Santa Lucia at York Minster, Fri Dec 7. Doors open at 7pm. Free.
Santa Lucia Service at Birmingham Cathedral, Birmingham, Mon Dec 10. Doors open at 5pm. Free.
Santa Lucia at St John’s Church, Edinburgh, Dec 13. 7pm. £5.

Fancy more twinkling lights? Check out these Christmas lights trails near London

More into shopping? Explore these Christmas markets outside of London

Staying in the city? Read our guide to Christmas in London

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