Saturday, December 13, 2008

St. Lucia's Day

The people of Sweden celebrate St. Lucia's Day, who brings sight to the blind, food to the hungry and light in the midst of winter darkness. The Festival of Lights or Little Christmas is the favorite Swedish Advent celebration. She was a real person born in Syracuse in Sicily to wealthy Christians in the third century. While still young she vowed to remain a virgin and dedicated her life and fortune to the Church. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage with a young pagan. When he was refused, he denounced her as a Christian. Miracles preserved her from a brothel and death by burning, but finally she was martyred by a sword thrust through her neck.

St. Lucia is represented carrying a flame or burning lamp, because her name comes from lux meaning light. St. Lucia's Day is a festival of fire and light, with two ceremonies, one at home and one in church. The Lucia Queen or Lucia Bride in the early morning darkness of December 13th is dressed in a long white gown sometimes decorated with stars. She wears a bilberry crown fitted with lighted candles as she goes from room to room to awaken family and guests. She brings them hot coffee and buns made with saffron or flavored with cardamon. Next she visits the barns with coffee and food for the farmhands and extras are given to the animals.

In the church ceremony, Lucia has a similar dress and crown. She enters the church with boys dressed in blue with peaked caps decorated with stars. They carry star-topped staffs, like the boys who make the rounds on Epiphany.

In both ceremonies, Lucia brings light into darkness, fire against winter cold and the promise of sun and new life in spring! Light some candles today and celebrate St. Lucia!

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