St. Lucia of Syracuse, December 13

Updated 2012

This is repost of previous years’ postings, cross-posted with O Night Divine, with links all updated and a few additional links.

(Please also see my latest book review, Lucia, Saint of Light.)

December 13 is the Feast of St. Lucia or Lucy of Syracuse, Sicily.

From Lives of the Saints, Volume 3, by Catholic Press:

In the Roman Martyrology, Saint Lucy is called both virgin and martyr, and in both titles lies the secret of her sanctity in the Roman Empire of the fourth century. Recent excavations in Syracuse, the ancient capital of Sicily, revealed both her tomb and an inscription dating from the end of the fourth century that mentions her feast day. She is known to have been honored in Rome in the sixth century and she is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass. Lucy, whose name means “light” was invoked by the devout of the Middle Ages as the patroness of those afflicted with any eye disease. In art she is often shown carrying a dish with two eyeballs on it.

The poet Dante prayed to Saint Lucy for the relief of an eye ailment, and in his Divine Comedy he gave this saint one of the most honored places in heaven, next to that of Saint John the Baptist.

Much of what we are told about Saint Lucy may be legend. The earliest account of her martyrdom, although written some time before the sixth century, is not considered authentic.

Her legend can be found at Patron Saints Index.

eyes.jpgLucy means “light” and she is the patron of eye troubles and blindness. As mentioned above, she is often portrayed holding her eyeballs on a dish, although in the painting above by Francesco del Cossa has the eyes held in a more unique way. Her feast originally coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year before calendar reforms, so her feastday has become a feast of light…of course, not The Light, but pointing to Christ our Light.. There are so many approaches to thinking of light — Christ the Light of the World comes at Christmas; Christ our Light in the Paschal Candle at Easter; we see light through the gift of eyesight; we are enlightened by our Faith and grace; light comes through sunlight, fire, electricity; scientific analysis of the speed of light and the light spectrum, the rainbow colors…and this merely scratches the surface. All over the world we remember this virgin-martyr saint less than 2 weeks before Christmas. Whether you embrace the Lucia Child of Sweden, the Sicilian customs or particular family traditions, light should play a prominent role in the feast!

There was a real Saint Lucia, as you can see from Basilica of St. Lucy in Syracuse, Sicily that holds her relics, and there is a beautiful sepulchre. Don’t miss the beautiful depiction in the basilica by Caravaggio, “Burial of St. Lucia”.

I don’t have a daughter, so we don’t play up the Swedish Lucia much at home, at least so far. I decorate with a few Swedish items, and pictures of St. Lucy. I have a Brass Lucia Crown with real candles that I received as a Christmas present one year, a Dala horse, and Swedish Angel Chimes. I had a set of these as a young girl and loved seeing the candles and hearing the sweet soft chimes. I found mine at an antique store for a few dollars, and I thought it would be a perfect addition for a feast with light.

I wanted to decorate my brass wreath with lingonberry leaves, which are used in Sweden, but not native to USA. After much searching I found at one of the craft stores a long artificial garland with similar leaves and berries. Perhaps one day I’ll have a daughter who can wear the Lucia Crown. It seems that even in Sweden battery operated candles are the way to go. Safety first!

Coloring Pages and Paper Dolls

Craft and Party Ideas

Not all traditions for St. Lucia’s feast day are from Sweden. There is a Croatian and Hungarian custom of planting the St. Lucy Wheat on this day. See

There have been a few terrific blog posts in the past two years on preparing for the feast of St. Lucia from families who have experience, in baking, reading, crafting and celebrating:

Images: This site has almost every image of St. Lucia on holycards imaginable.

Books:

  • I reviewed Lucia, Saint of Light, which now runs the top of our Lucia book list. This story includes both the life of St. Lucia and the Swedish traditions of the Lucia bride.
  • Lucia: Child of Light by Florence Ekstrand. The history and tradition of Sweden’s Lucia celebration. Includes recipes, songs, and other traditions related to this Swedish celebration.
  • Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker, with illustrations by Carina Stahlberg. A living story about Lucia Morning traditions in Sweden, but also includes recipes, music, and patterns for a Starboy and Lucia gown.
  • Kirsten’s Surprise: A Christmas Story by Janet Shaw, from The American Girls’ Collection. A wonderful story about Kirsten and her first Christmas in Minnesota and her struggle to make her Christmas similar to ones in Sweden, including her Lucia Morning. The companion cookbook Kirsten’s Cook Book includes a recipe for St. Lucia Buns.
  • If you’re blessed to own a copy, or your library has one, Hanna’s Christmas by Melissa Wiley Peterson is perfect for this feast day. See Annual Hanna’s Christmas Post and Hanna and Me and Karen’s St. Lucia’s Celebration.
  • Swedish Christmas in America by Catarina Lundren is a gorgeous cookbook, rich with pictures, recipes and traditions. Get some sneak previews from Christmas in Sweden.

Catalogs: These have great ideas for a Swedish unit or Swedish Lucia items. I’ve used both and have been very pleased.

Websites and Links:

Foods:

Not all foods for this feast day are Swedish. Italians and Sicilians have some wonderful recipes for celebrating this day, too. There are quite a few recipes on Catholic Culture including St. Lucia Cats, St. Lucy Buns, St. Lucia Crown…

The use of saffron in some of these recipes points back to the light reference, with the yellow reminding us of sunlight. A very simple approach to getting the yellow or saffron on the dinner table is making a variant of yellow rice. There are recipes from various cultures, or the simplest route of using box mix like Zatarains, Goya, or Mahatma.

For other recipes, see also:

Music

Prayers

Prayers to St. Lucy

Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation every corner of our day. Amen.

St. Lucia, Pray for Us.

8 thoughts on “St. Lucia of Syracuse, December 13

  1. I’m a quarter Swedish and we always eat lutefisk and lefse at Christmas time. I think it was part of the Advent fast originally. Lefse is a flat potato bread we used to spread with butter and brown sugar…yum! Lutefisk is soaked salted dried cod boiled to a jello-like consistency which is only edible because it is smothered in melted butter. Not so yum! Thank you for the great links!

  2. Did I miss OLOG? Does she fade to the background because it’s the 3rd Sun of Advent? I’m still learning those subtleties. We are celebrating her today since it’s Maria’s feast day and we’re having yummy Mexican food.

    I wish St. Lucia weren’t in Advent. I get so overwhelmed with trying to just get Christmas together and keeping the correct focus, but boy, she looks fun.

    • OL of Guadalupe would be today, but yes, she does fade into the background because it’s Sunday in Advent. Our parish had a Guadalupe celebration, but the Mass was for the 3rd Sunday of Advent liturgy.

      Rachel, I barely do anything. We read about Lucia and make the light connection, but it’s a birthday celebration here.

  3. Pingback: Saint Lucia « Family in Feast and Feria

  4. Oops left my comment on the wrong year. I am wondering if anyone else is experiencing the jumping at the bottom of the screen here like I am. It is only on this site and no others so I am wondering where the glitch is. Also, thanks so much for all of the WONDERFUL info on St. Lucia here! What a great resource. God Bless….

  5. Pingback: 11 : Saint Lucia day Dec 13 « The Online Advent Garland

  6. Pingback: Advent 2013 Resources | Family in Feast and Feria

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