"Saint Lucia, with her bright shining candles, reminds us to be the light in the darkness. And her offerings of food and drink remind us to be giving and kind to others. The white gown symbolizes the young woman's purity and the red reminds us of her martyrdom." See the "Ultimate Saint Lucia Day Post" at The Paper Dali with a paper doll, history, and a unit study(Sweden).
I had a childhood friend whose father was Swedish, and we were always invited over to their home for the Saint Lucia Day festivities. It's quite beautiful, and I loved to watch her father beam with joy when his eldest daughter wore the candles and white dress, singing traditional song with cakes in hand.
"Around Christmas time in Sweden, one of the biggest celebrations is St. Lucia's Day (or St. Lucy's Day) on December 13th. The celebration comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.
December 13th was also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, in the old 'Julian' Calendar and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden was turned into St. Lucia's Day.
St. Lucia's Day is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head. (Normally electric candles are used for safety!) The crown is made of Lingonberry branches which are evergreen and symbolise new life in winter. Schools normally have their own St. Lucias and some town and villages also choose a girl to play St. Lucia in a procession where carols are sung." Read more here.
"A newer theory, requiring more research is that St. Birgitta (1303-1373), during her stay in Rome (1349-1373) in her effort to get papal approval of the Bridgittine Order for women, probably wrote home to Sweden telling of the Lucia legend which was widely known in Italy. As Lucia Day comes at the darkest time of year, the candies of the ministering Santa Lucia portend and witness to the True Light-the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the morning of the thirteenth of December, the strains of 'Santa Lucia' are heard everywhere in Sweden as the white-robed maiden comes out of the night with her burning crown of candies dispelling the darkness. In honor of her martyrdom, It has long been the custom to donate money on Lucia Day to institutions working for the blind." Read more here.