"I think it's
interesting, but it's not something we (youngsters her age) talk
about. very much," she said. "I don't really think much
about being Swedish."
But her ethnic
heritage will take the spotlight on Dec. 8 when she portrays St.
Lucy -- complete with a lighted candles headdress -- in the
annual local enactment of a traditional Swedish celebration of
Sankta Lucia. The
event, at Old Swedes Church and the Hendrickson House museum at
Seventh and Church Sts. in Wilmington beginning at 3 p.m., is
open to the general public.
The original St.
Lucy was a fourth century Sicilian virgin and martyr, who is
venerated by both Latin and Greek Christians. Swedes share
making a special thing out of observing her feast day -- it is
actually on Dec. 13 -- with Italians. Women of St. Anthony
of Padua, the ethnic Italian Catholic parish, used to have a St.
Be that as it may,
Jo Thompson, director of the Delaware Swedish Colonial Society,
said the commemoration, both in Sweden and here, has evolved
into a secular celebration. It has more to do with the coming of
winter than piety and martyrdom.
That, she explains,
is because the name Lucia is a derivative of lux, the Latin word for
light. And light is a precious commodity in Scandinavia. Anyone
around here who's put off by the prospect of driving home from
work as night falls around five o'clock in December can
appreciate what it must be like at Sweden's more northerly
latitude brings twilight while we're still having afternoon.
That is why Swedish
and Norse sailors long ago brought Lucy back to their homelands,
where she has become centerpiece of the winter solstice counterpoint
to Midsummer Eve, celebrated in June when things up north,
speaking, are looking up.
But Sankta Lucia is
not about gloom, either. "It's a family festival," Thompson
As a society fact
sheet explains, the Swedish tradition calls for the eldest
daughter to rise at dawn on the shortest day of the year, dress
in a white gown with a red sash, a la St. Lucy, and, by
candlelight and accompanied by her brothers and sisters, bring
lusse (lucy) bread, ginger cookies and coffee to her parents.
(above) will portray St. Lucy in the Delaware Swedish
Colonial Society's Sankta Lucia celebration. She will be
accompanied (below) by attendants Taylor Long and Meg
Thomas and star boy Nathaniel Long.
At Old Swedes that
will adapted to include songs in English and Swedish, stories
about colonial New Sweden and the Swedes and Finns who settled
here, and light refreshments. As Lucia, Allmond will be
accompanied by attendants, stjarngossar (star boys) and tomten
(elves). She worked her way into the lead position by serving in
prior years as an attendant.
apprenticeship is the fact that Frances Allmond, Jackee's
grandmother, is descended from both Tymen Stidham, who came over
in 1638 on the first voyage of the good ship Kalmar Nyckel and
served the colony as barber-surgeon, and Olof Stille, who
arrived here in 1641. Names of their respective wives are not
known. Jackee's grandfather, Charles Allmond, traces his lineage
to David Martonsson, who was aboard the Kalmar Nyckel on her
third voyage, and his wife, Helena. Jackee's parents are Bayard
and Susan Allmond.
Mary McCoy, past
president of the Delaware Swedish Colonial Society, said that
Sankta Lucia, held annually since 1977, is part of a continuing
effort to keep alive the area's Swedish heritage.
To be sure, it has
long been required learning in fourth grade public school
classrooms in Delaware that the Swedes landed on The Rocks in
what is now Fort Christina Park, off East Seventh Street in
Wilmington, and called the surrounding neighborhood New Sweden.
They built Old Swedes Church -- more accurately, Holy Trinity
Church -- which is one of the oldest buildings in the nation
used continually as a house of worship.
The story goes that
the Dutch then moved in and took over, ending Sweden's only
attempt to establish a New World presence. Until fairly
recently, the popular belief is that the original Swedes all but
lost their presence, too.
Not so, said McCoy.
During the 17 years
that they held the reins, New Sweden spread throughout the
region. Swedes settled, farmed, milled and engaged in other
pursuits all along both sides of the river between what is now
Smyrna and Trenton, N.J. There was a good deal of intermarriage
among the Colonial-era families, which established a lasting
identity despite the many marriages outside the clans.
However, it was not
until the tricentennial of the initial colony in 1938, when
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Swedish Prince Bertil
came to town to help celebrate the occasion, that an
appreciation of the area's foundation came forward. But it was
publication of Alex Haley's novel, Roots, in 1974
that really sparked interest in genealogy and tracing
Frances Allmond said
it was not until the 1970s that she "realized and appreciated
where we came from."
being what it is nowadays, McCoy said the Delaware Swedish
Colonial Society has a mailing list of about 200 families which
share the area's Swedish heritage.