Student named Chicago's "Lucia" in annual Swedish festival

Mari Baly in Lucia costume

Mari Baly named 2008 Santa Lucia for Chicago

CHICAGO, IL (December 15, 2008) – Senior Mari Baly, a Scandinavian studies and Spanish double major, was named the 2008 Santa Lucia for the city of Chicago.

Co-president of the Scandinavian Student Association, Baly was also named North Park University’s Lucia for the annual Sankta Lucia pageant that took place on campus Saturday, December 6. The North Park Lucia is chosen from among young women in their senior year who are majoring in Scandinavian studies.

Baly was subsequently chosen by The Central Swedish Committee of Chicago as the city’s Lucia for a December 12 celebration at the Daley Plaza. Each year the various member organizations, including North Park University, choose candidates to represent their organizations, and a name is drawn from among them to determine the Chicago Lucia. The honor includes leading the Lucia Parade in Andersonville and appearing at the Swedish American Museum Center and at Ebenezer Lutheran Church during a Lucia Pageant.

Baly is from Wilmington, Ill., and is the daughter of North Park alumni Steven Baly and Kristin (Johnson) Baly. She is also the granddaughter of Richard Johnson and Marlys (Peterson) Johnson, and great-granddaughter of Hjeimer Peterson, all of whom graduated from the University.

The Swedish Christmas tradition of Santa Lucia is celebrated in many forms throughout Scandinavian countries. Also known as the festival of lights, the centuries-old custom required every village to choose a young woman to represent Santa Lucia. On the morning of December 13 she would wear a white dress with a red sash and a wreath of lingonberry twigs and seven candles. Historically she would go from farm to farm bringing baked goods and return home before dawn.

The candles on Santa Lucia’s headpiece symbolize welcoming light during the darkest time of the year. When the celebration first began, the calendar date of December 13 was the shortest day of the year. Santa Lucia Day thus commemorated the return of light and longer and warmer days.