Ethnic traditions

Saint Lucy’s Day – December 13

Saint Lucy’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Lucy, is a Christian feast day observed on 13 December. The observance commemorates Lucia of Syracuse, an early-4th-century virgin martyr under the Diocletianic Persecution,who according to legend brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs, wearing a candle lit wreath on her head to light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible. Her feast day, which coincided with the shortest day of the year prior to calendar reforms, is widely celebrated as a festival of light. Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucy’s Day is viewed as a precursor of Christmastide, pointing to the arrival of the Light of Christ in the calendar on Christmas Day.

Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated most widely in Scandinavia and in Italy, with each emphasising a different aspect of her story. In Scandinavia, where Lucy is called Santa Lucia in Norwegian and Danish and Sankta Lucia in Swedish, she is represented as a lady in a white dress symbolizing a baptismal robe and a red sash symbolizing the blood of her martyrdom, with a crown or wreath of candles on her head.

In Norway, Sweden and Swedish-speaking regions of Finland, as songs are sung, girls dressed as Saint Lucy carry cookies and saffron buns in procession, which symbolizes bringing the Light of Christ into the world’s darkness. In both Protestant and Catholic churches, boys participate in the procession as well, playing different roles associated with Christmastide, such as that of Saint Stephen. The celebration of Saint Lucy’s Day is said to help one live the winter days with enough light.

A special devotion to Saint Lucy is practiced in the Italian regions of LombardyEmilia-RomagnaVenetoFriuli Venezia GiuliaTrentino-Alto Adige, in the north of the country, and Sicily, in the south, as well as in the Croatian coastal region of Dalmatia. In Hungary and Croatia, a popular tradition on Saint Lucy’s Day involves planting wheat grains that grow to be several centimetres tall by Christmas Day, representing the Nativity of Jesus. Source

ST. LUCY’S DAY TRADITIONS

In some Catholic cultures (especially in Scandinavia) it’s common to have a Mass procession on St. Lucy’s feast day with young girls carrying candles, with the lead girl wearing a wreath of lights (which looks similar to an Advent wreath).
Tradition holds that St. Lucy would wear a wreath of candles on her head so she could see better, her arms full of supplies, as she served the poor Christians hiding from persecution in the dark underground catacombs.

Many countries have special St. Lucy’s day traditions, but perhaps the most well-known are the ones of Italian and Scandinavin origin.

According to this resource, in Sweden,

“The oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy’s Day and dress in a white gown for purity, often with a red sash as a sign of martyrdom. On her head she will wear a wreath of greenery and lit candles, and she is often accompanied by ‘Star Boys,’ her small brothers who are dressed in white gowns and cone-shaped hats that are decorated with gold stars, and carrying star-tipped wands. ‘St. Lucy’ will go around her house and wake up her family to serve them special St. Lucy Day foods” which were usually baked sweets.One simple way to incorporate a St. Lucy’s day sweet treat into your family is with St. Lucy’s bread.  Read one family’s fun and easy St. Lucy day tradition (perfect for young girls!) here and here. Source

St. Lucia Day in Norway

Children parade dressed in white, carrying candles, singing songs, and handing out festive buns.

The celebration of St. Lucia Day is rooted in Christian and pagan traditions. Its pagan part stems from an old legend about a dangerous Lussy who roamed across Norway with trolls. Not to come across the evil creatures, people stayed at home during the night on the 13th of December. Today, the feast is more about light than darkness. Norwegian children organize school processions. Dressed in white clothes, they carry candles, and sing a song to Saint Lucia, as well as hand out festive treats, called lussekatt buns.

The parades are led by a fair-haired girl with candles in her wreath who represents Saint Lucia. A candle is fastened to her head to free her hands while she visits hospitals and senior homes to give out lussekatt buns.

While St.Lucia processions and parades are held in the mornings, churches and universities across Norway offer St.Lucia concerts in the evening. Visitors can attend the Lucia concert in the University of Oslo or head to a small town for a more authentic celebration. The town of Drobak near Oslo has really atmospheric annual St.Lucia parades.

Even though today Christian tradition prevails, many people still regard the night between 12th and 13th of December as an ominous one and do not let their children out. Source

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