Celebrate St Lucia’s Eponymous Saint This Christmas
Joanna Johnson has a keen interest in history and folklore, finding tales such as Saint Lucy’s fascinating in this guest post she explains more about St Lucy
There is a lot to be said for spending Christmas at home with your family. However, it never hurts to have the occasional Christmas holiday abroad (after all, it can be a pleasant change to have a warm Christmas for once!). With the latter in mind, I must heartily recommend St Lucia holidays, in large part due to the island’s wonderful festive celebrations. These include the Festival of Lights (held on the 12th of December) and Saint Lucy’s Day (celebrated the day after on the 13th). The origin of the latter in particular is, as I hope to demonstrate, actually rather interesting.
What is Saint Lucy’s Day?
Saint Lucy’s Day, as its name might suggest, is a church feast day dedicated to Saint Lucy (or Lucia). Held on the 13th of December as previously mentioned, the festival is primarily observed in certain areas of Europe and is perhaps best known in countries such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Italy. In some of the iconic traditional celebrations, processions of girls holding candles are led by a girl chosen to represent Saint Lucy herself (she wears a crown of candles, but for safety reasons modern Saint Lucy’s Day crowns are often instead fitted with electric lights).
Who is Saint Lucy?
The facts of Saint Lucy’s life before her martyrdom in around AD 310 are largely shrouded in mystery. A native of Sicily, the Guilte Legende states that she was visiting the Shrine of Agnes in order to pray for her mother (who was suffering from a long term illness) when an angel appeared to her in a dream. Becoming a devout Christian as a result, she refused to surrender her virginity even in marriage. In response her would-be husband denounced her to the Roman authorities, who threatened to force her into a brothel if she did not renounce her beliefs. However, despite the efforts of a thousand men and fifty oxen she could not be moved, and even though they built a fire around her and stuck a spear through her throat she refused to stop speaking of her infallible faith. Despite her extreme suffering, however, she was only able to die after being given the Christian sacrament.
Saint Lucy is often depicted with her eyes on a plate. This is due to them allegedly having been gouged out by her tormentors (although in some accounts she does it herself due to her betrothed’s fondness for them).
How is Saint Lucy’s Day celebrated?
Fortunately, the ways in which Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated are far less grim than the tale behind the lady herself. Decorative lights are lit in the island’s capital city Castries, elaborate decorated lanterns are crafted and the day is officially ended with an impressive fireworks display. In some parts of North-Eastern Italy Saint Lucy is seen as being similar to Father Christmas as on the night of the 12th of December she gives gifts to good children while leaving coal for bad ones. Accompanied by a donkey and her escort Castaldo, children are dissuaded from watching by being told that she will throw temporarily blinding ashes in their eyes if they peek. Instead, they are encouraged to leave out flour for the donkey, bread for Castaldo and some coffee for Saint Lucy herself.