Category: 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 Nicholas Day – December 6

Who is Saint Nicholas?
For a long time in Austria and some regions of Germany, particularly in Bavaria, St. Nicholas was the main character in the Christmas celebration. But he was not Santa Claus, and he arrived earlier – on the 6th of December. His usual, less friendly escort went by different names in different places: “Belsnickle,” “Niglo,” “Pelznickel,” and others. Santa Claus or Father Christmas is a more recent tradition. Since the Germans (and the Dutch) brought many of their customs to America directly or indirectly, we need to look first at Europe in order to understand the American and worldwide Christmas celebration of today.

The Ottery Tar Barrels Burning Festival

Every year on November 5th, for reasons lost in antiquity, the villagers of Ottery St Mary, Devon in England’s West Country race through the streets carrying heavy barrels full of flaming tar in one of the quirkiest of British traditions. The West Country has a history of torchlight processions and a tradition of burning barrels and rolling them down the streets, but Ottery is the only village where barrels aren’t rolled but carried above the head. The tradition is believed to have started in the 17th century, possibly when someone decided that rolling barrels were tame and carrying barrels on the shoulders was far more appealing.