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by Travis Thomason, student writer

More than 300 guests turned out to take part in the holiday spirit and donate toys to Shiners’ Hospital for Children on behalf of the Swedish Student Association.

After a welcome by SSA President Christian Clemente, the night began with a greeting from HPU President Chatt G. Wright, who announced that Swedish students are now the highest international population at Hawai‘i Pacific University.

Shiners’ Hospital Administrator Tom Schnyder accepted the gift on behalf of the hospital. Thanking the group, he said that the hospital’s care of children “never has been, nor ever will be possible without this generous support.”

The presentation was followed by the Swedish smorgasbord, a buffet featuring a variety of cold dishes including meat, fish, salads, and cheeses.

After dinner, the sweet smell of cinnamon rice pudding filled the air, the lights dimmed, and the crowd took their seats to enjoy the tradition of the Lucia Train, a procession of student carolers with glowing candles singing traditional carols. Lucia celebration has been a tradition in Sweden for centuries. In Sweden Lucia Day, Dec. 13, is the darkest day of the year, and Lucia is believed to bring hope for moving toward brighter days.

The eldest daughter in Swedish families traditionally performs the Lucia Train on Christmas Day, bringing candles to the bed of her sleeping parents to help brighten the long winter night.

“ I didn’t have to fly on a plane for 24 hours to experience an amazing Swedish tradition,” said former Director of Student Life Heather Hubbard. “The SSA takes such pride in the support it receives from President Wright; it’s beautiful to see it all come together for the HPU family.”

Rita Kristjansdottir, incoming president of the Swedish Student Association, said: “I would love for Swedish students to really keep their culture alive and totally embrace the culture of Hawai‘i. It’s beautiful,” she added.

Shiners’ Hospital for Children was established in 1923 and provides free orthopedic care to children under the age of 18.

Scandinavian Christmas at HPU can be traced back 12 years, when it was first celebrated in the home of Bob and Ulla Popp. Bob Popp, an instructor of political science teaching in the Military Campus Program, was the club’s advisor at the time, and the event soon outgrew his residence. It has continued to grow, each year surpassing the year before.

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