The festival of St. Lucia, which in Swedish tradition, begins the Christmas season, is traditionally celebrated on Dec. 13 – one of the longest nights of winter.
“It’s a tradition about light,” Assistant to the President for Special Projects and Advisor for the St. Lucia Guild Barb Larson Taylor said.
According to the Swedish legend, a woman named Lucia was martyred because she would not renounce her faith.
“That could’ve been the sad ending to the story,” as Larson-Taylor said. “But, after she died, there were these sightings of a young woman, glowing, white robed and an aura of light around her, bringing food to the poor and caring for people.”
In times of darkness, she would come and “be this luminous presence in the darkness of people’s lives, she would come and be serving,” Larson-Taylor said.
This is the college’s 72nd year celebrating the festival of St. Lucia. As tradition has it, each year, five or six sophomore women are chosen to be a part of the Court of St. Lucia. The women are sophomores because legend states that Lucia was killed at the young age of 20. The women are chosen by their peers for honoring the qualities of the legendary Lucia: service to others, strengths of character, courageous leadership and compassion.
“At Gustavus, we celebrate it because of the deeper story, the deeper message of what it can still mean,” Larson-Taylor said.
Among the court are Sophomores Maura Bremer, Danielle Cabrera, Carolyn Draayer, Nicole Eknitphong, Mara LeBlanc and Nikki Rom.
“This nomination has been the most wonderful reminder of what a beautiful, loving community I am a part of here at Gustavus. I can only hope to aspire to the traits that St. Lucia herself was best known for. Her bravery and compassion can serve as inspiration for all of us, especially in this season of giving,” Maura Bremer said.
All students and employees are eligible to nominate someone, and afterward sophomore women and the St. Lucia Guild select a court consisting of five or six women. Finally, the whole campus (employees and students) is able to vote on one person to be crowned Lucia.
“This year, the Court of St. Lucia celebrates the diversity of Gustavus and recognizes strength of character, service to others, compassion, and courageous leadership. I am greatly appreciative and proud of serving on such a diverse court. I am incredibly blessed for this recognition by my peers and I am privileged to be one of six unbelieveably talented young women who all represent the best of Gustavus,”Danielle Cabrera said.
In addition to feeling greatly appreciative of her Gustavus peers, Cabrera encourages people to acknowledge and give gratitude to those who bring meaning to their lives.
“Finally, I urge my fellow Gusties to take some time today to recognize and appreciate the lights in their lives—at school, at home, at work. A simple sticky note or Facebook message will do. Celebrate those who bring joy for they matter most,” Cabrera said.
“There are so many wonderful people that make up our Gustavus community; students, professors, faculty, and the administration. Everyone cares and really wants to help everyone be the best they can be. It’s pretty neat to think that other students nominated us all for this honor,” Carolyn Draayer said.
Draayer is also looking forward to celebrating the spirit of the season.
“I’m really looking forward to the holiday season. Everyone is filled with contagious joy and it’s a wonderful time of year,” Draayer said.
The 2012 St. Lucia Court shows a great range of diversity in personalities, personal inspirations and interests. The nominees interests and extracurriculars range between Gustie Greeters, The Gustavian Weekly, Habitat for Humanity, Building Bridges, I Am We Are, the Gustavus Dance Company, Student Senate, Women’s Hockey, and Peer Assistants. While their interests are greatly diversified, Cabrera, Draayer, Bremer, Rom, LeBlanc, and Ektnitphong clearly exemplify the spirit of St. Lucia.
“I feel extremely grateful for receiving this nomination to be a part of the St. Lucia Court. I also feel very honored that I was considered for this rewarding nomination and to be among such talented and beautiful women on the court is such a blessing. I’m looking forward to the festival and enjoying a day filled with love and gratitude,” Nicole Ektnitphong said.
Nominee Mara LeBlanc urges Gusties to embody St. Lucia’s spirit in every way all year long.
“The emphasis of courageous leadership, strength of character, service to others and compassion is something that should be celebrated all year long – there are many faculty, administrators, and students who exemplify these characteristics, so I hope that Gusties will take this time of year to recognize everyone who deserves to wear a crown of lighted candles,” Mara LeBlanc said.
Nikki Rom received her nomination with joy and a little humilty.
“When they told me I was a part of the court, I think the best word to describe my reaction was flabbergasted. They handed me these two beautiful roses, gave me a big hug, and for the rest of the evening I felt like a dork because I was grinning from ear to ear. I feel so blessed, not only for this nomination, but to even be affiliated with these 5 incredible women is an honor in itself. I just feel so humbled that this small town northerner has been able to make an impact on someone else to the point where they would nominate me for this incredible tradition,” Rom said.
The Lucia Festival will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. during a Chapel service.