The light of faith and Santa Lucia

The Third Sunday of Advent is Rose Sunday – also known as Gaudete Sunday – the mid-point,  so to speak, in this season of expectation.

The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday because in Latin, the first words of the opening antiphon for that day’s Mass are “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”). On this Sunday rose-colored vestments are permitted and the rose-colored candle is lit as a reminder that we are called to rejoice.

This year, the Third Sunday of Advent is also the Feast of St. Lucy, known far and wide as Santa Lucia.  The Festival of Santa Lucia is a celebration of the light of faith that begins before dawn on the 13th of December which, under the old Julian calendar, used to be the longest night of the year.

In Sweden, the old festival remains a major celebration. According to tradition, the eldest daughter in each household wakens her sleeping family members dressed in a white gown tied with a red sash – commemorating St. Lucy’s martyr status.

In olden times the “Lucias” also wore crowns of lingonberry leaves on their heads in which were set seven lighted candles. These days, the wreath is more likely to be adorned with candles of the battery operated kind.

It’s customary for the Lucias to carry trays of steaming hot coffee and pastry into their parents while their sisters and brothers – also dressed in white and holding lit candles, sing of the light and joy of Christmas.

Where our family is concerned, this day affords an annual opportunity to celebrate our small, yet meaningful Swedish heritage: a seafaring Irish great-grandfather, fell in love with a lovely Swedish maiden many, many years ago, married her and carried her away to America where she gave birth to our grandmother, May and our great-uncle George.

In honor of our ancestress, we mark the occasion with sweets and savories. The savories in this case include tempting smoked salmon tea sandwiches with capers and red onions, a recipe adapted from

Ingredients: 1 cup finely chopped red onion; 1 tablespoon rice vinegar; 4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature); 3 tablespoons chopped chives; 2 tablespoons sour cream or plain Greek yogurt; 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried dill; 1 tablespoon drained capers; 12 slices thin, Scandinavian or German style bread available in the refrigerated deli section of many supermarkets; 8 ounces smoked salmon


Mix the red onion and vinegar in a small bowl and let stand for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cream cheese, chives, sour cream or yogurt, dill and dcapers in another small bowl.

Spread each slice of bread with about 1 tablespoon of cheese mixture to cover and divide salmon generously among six of the bread slices. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon red onion mix on top of salmon on each bread slice. Top each of the sandwiches with another cream cheese topped bread slice and cut each sandwhich into 4 triangles. This makes a lovely sandwich.


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