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Every year around this time, Sweden celebrates the feast of Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr who according to legend brought aid to persecuted Christians in the dead of night, her head adorned by a candle-lit wreath. This is commemorated yearly by a reenactment, usually performed by children, carrying candles and singing Christian songs.
Most major Swedish companies do their best to capitalize on this cutesy tradition, but this year Åhlens, one of the largest department store-chains in the country, decided to go above and beyond the traditional and the ordinary. On the cover of the Christmas edition of their company magazine as well as their website, they chose to use a young black boy as the Lucia-model, dressed in the traditional gown and wreath, and the internet lost its collective mind. The comments ranged from “this is genocide on white people” and “A disgusting affront on Nordic tradition” to the more blunt “You make me puke.” Just a few days after the picture was published it had to be taken down after the boy’s mother asked the company to protect the boy from what ended up being a racist hate-storm.
The brunt of the criticism toward the company was focused on two factors: that there was a boy in a traditionally female role and that the boy was black, whereas the Swedish Lucia-procession traditionally features blond and blue-eyed children.