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Finland chooses new Lucia maiden

Eighteen-year-old high school senior Julia Hanhikoski from Kokkola has been voted in as the national Lucia during a charity fund drive. She will be crowned at the Helsinki Cathedral on December 13.

Julia Hanhikoski
New Lucia Julia Hanhikoski is charged with bringing light to anyone who needs it. Image: Raila Paavola / Yle Keski-Pohjanmaa

After her coronation, she will descend the steps of the Cathedral and lead a procession towards the city centre.

Many other towns and schools also select their own Lucia. Over the next weeks and months, these young women and their entourages visit hospitals, retirement homes, prisons, orphanages and schools, bringing light, song -- as well as buns and coffee.

According to tradition, Lucia, a young woman dressed in white and wearing a crown of candles, brings light during the darkest time of the year.

The Lucia tradition can be traced back to St. Lucia, an Italian martyr who died in 303 A.D. The Nordic Lucia tradition began in the 18th century in Sweden. In the 1900s, the tradition spread to the Åland Islands and to other Swedish-speaking regions in Finland.

The national Lucia pageant is organised by the Swedish-speaking social welfare NGO Folkhälsan, the Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet and Yle Fem, the Swedish-language arm of public broadcaster Yle.

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