Ryssby, Colorado
It is that time of year when days are short, dark and cold. But it's also when Lucia comes with candles in her hair and messages of warmth and happiness. Lucia is not a tradition celebrated worldwide and could be greatly missed if you leave Scandinavia. However, one event that will add a warm glow to the hearts of fellow Scandinavians in Colorado, USA is the Swedish Candlelight Service with Santa Lucia at Ryssby Church.
This Lucia event takes place the first Sunday in December every year. The historic Ryssby Church and cemetery in Longmont, Colorado is a small stone church built in 1881-82 by Swedish emigrants from Ryssby in Småland, Sweden. The settlers tried to build the Longmont church to replicate their church in Smaland; the interior is completely white, with no electricity or running water, and only a log burning fire keeps it warm in the winter. There is also an outhouse next to the church. Inside, above the altar in bold letters and also on the iron gates entering the church grounds, it is written "Ara Vare Gud I Hojden." A perfect setting for the Swedish Candlelight Service with Santa Lucia.
First Lutheran Church in Longmont, who owns Ryssby Church, organizes three to four candlelight services every year before Christmas. The church is lit by burning candles in the candelabras hanging from the ceiling and in the tiered candleholders in the church windows. It's also decorated with garland and a Christmas tree. Even the outhouse is lit by candles. These services have become very popular.

Candlelight service with Lucia
Due to the popularity, Roland Nilsson from Vasa Order of America Enighet Lodge #178, decided to start hosting a special Swedish candlelight service and Santa Lucia Festival, and has done so since 2002. Pastor Wolfgang Stahlberg preaches in Swedish and Pastor Ron Swenson in English. The choir is comprised of members of SWEA, the Swedish Women’s Society, who sing both English and Swedish Christmas songs throughout the service. The audience gladly sings along to most of the songs.
The grand finale is a Lucia train entering the church. Young Swedish children elected by different Swedish clubs in Colorado perform. The clubs take turns every year, a chance to promote the different Swedish clubs in Colorado. This year the service was held on December 1 and the Lucia train was performed by the Swedish Club of Denver.
The Lucia train and the SWEA choir sing a few Lucia and Christmas songs to finish the evening. The service is an uplifting event during the dark, cold winter days. Because of how popular this event has become and the limited space in the church, it's always packed, and you can hear a lot of Scandinavian languages spoken inside throughout the evening.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $1 for children ages 5-12. Children under 5 are free. All money raised goes to Ryssby Church.
A few years ago the money collected was used for a bronze plaque showing that Ryssby Church in Colorado is on the National Register of Historic Places. Another year the money was used for a new fence around the church. Right now they are modernizing the outhouse, which should be finished in time for the Midsummer celebration in June. And most recently, they raised $1,500 toward a new organ. Next year this event will take place on December 7, 2014. For more information on Ryssby Church and this amazing event visit www.ryssbychurch.org
By Lena Siegle