Saint Lucia Day or “Saint Lucy’s Day” is the feast day of Saint Lucia of Syracuse, and is most commonly celebrated in Italy and Scandanavia. Stories of Saint Lucia (whose name means “light”) tell of her unwavering faith and devotion to the Christian way, despite persecution from the Romans. She is often portrayed as wearing a white dress with a red sash, and a wreath with candles on her head. This unique choice of headwear comes from another popular story in which she helped persecuted Christians escape through the catacombs during the oppressive rule of Emperor Diocletian.
Saint Lucia Day was intended to coincide with the winter solstice, but is now celebrated on the 13th instead, due to a discrepancy between the Gregorian and Julian calendars. In Italy, Saint Lucia brings gifts to good children and coal to bad ones sometime in the night between the 12th and 13th, and children leave coffee for her and a carrot for her donkey. If any children dare to sneak a peek at her while she delivers their gifts, she throws ashes into their eyes, blinding them temporarily.
In Scandinavian countries, Saint Lucia is honored with processions, hymns, and services, and is considered a “beacon of brightness” in the darkest time of the year. (Wikipedia – Saint Lucia’s Day)
To honor the day, the girls both dressed as Saint Lucia, and I whipped up a couple of quick candlelit wreaths for their heads (we stuck with the electric variety, for safety).
And as we did so, we considered our own fortunate situation, being relatively non-persecuted ourselves – at least not in any way that is directly harmful or dangerous – and very thankful to live in a time and place where persecution is rather low, and an ongoing effort is being made to eliminate all of it that remains.