Monday, 13 December 2010

Feast of St Lucy


Tradition tells us that Saint Lucy was born of noble, wealthy, Christian parents in Syracuse, Italy. Lucy had few memories of her father, for he died when Lucy was an infant. As a young girl, Lucy took a secret vow to consecrate her virginity to Christ. Thus her mother was quite dismayed when Lucy, as a teen, refused marriage to a young pagan. When Lucy's mother developed a hemorrhage, Lucy persuaded her to visit the tomb of St. Agatha to pray for healing. When her mother was healed, Lucy revealed her vow of virginity and asked permission to bestow her fortune on the poor. Joyful at her cure, Lucy's mother agreed, but Lucy's pagan suitor was incensed. With the persecution of the emperor Diocletian at its height, the jilted young man accused Lucy, before a judge, of being a Christian. When Lucy refused to relinquish her faith, the judge ordered her to a brothel. However, guards who attempted to drag her to the house of sin were unable to budge her. Similarly an attempt to burn Lucy to death failed so she was dispatched by thrusting a sword into her throat. The date of Lucy's martyrdom was December 13, 304.

According to the Julian calendar, December 13th was the shortest day of the year. The change to the Gregorian calendar altered the date to December 21st, but did not change Lucy's feast day celebration, and she is forever associated with lengthening days and more sunlight.

As early as the sixth century, Lucy was honored in Rome as one of the most praiseworthy virgin martyrs, and her name was inserted into the canon of the Mass. Possibly because of her name, which means "light," Lucy was invoked by those who suffered from eye trouble or blindness. Due to this connection, various legends arose. One legend claimed that her eyes were put out by a tyrannical government official or by her jilted boyfriend. Another declared that Lucy tore them out herself to discourage her pagan suitor. In every story, however, the Lord restored her eyes to her, more beautiful than ever.


Saint Lucy's Day, December 13, is celebrated by several European nations.

In Sweden, the oldest (or youngest) daughter in each household traditionally carries a tray of coffee and traditional pastries called lussekatter (Lucy cats) to her parents before they arise in the morning. She wears a white gown, scarlet sash, and a crown of greens and four, seven, or nine lighted candles . Her brothers, wearing white shirts and tall, cone-shaped hats decorated with stars, and her sisters, all in white and carrying lighted candles, follow her. In many towns, a Saint Lucy is chosen to carry coffee and buns to each house. She and her followers, each bearing a lighted candle, sing carols as they traverse the dark streets while St. Steven, represented by a man on horseback, leads the way. The procession is done in memory of Saint Lucy's traversing darkened woods to bring bread and other food to the poor.

In Switzerland, St Lucy strolls around the village with Father Christmas, giving gifts to the girls while he gives gifts to the boys.

In Venice, folks celebrate the Feast of St. Lucy by enjoying fried cheese.

Italians eat small cakes or biscotti shaped like eyes, light huge bonfires, and conduct evening candlelight processions, all in honor of Saint Lucy.

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