Saint Lucia's Day Traditions
- By Jenna Maxwell
Saint Lucia's Day is an annual holiday that is marked in different countries all throughout the world. While the festivities vary from one area to the next, the general purpose of this celebration is to recognize the struggle between light and darkness that we face on a daily basis. Saint Lucia's Day is viewed by most people as a Christian holiday; however, there are some practices of the event that predate the beginning of Christianity.
Saint Lucia's Day is celebrated in Italy with a feast held on December 13. The holiday is important all throughout the nation, especially in northern Italy and Sicily. According to tradition in the northern part of the country, Saint Lucy visits the homes in the area on December 13, riding a donkey and leaving behind gifts for all of the good children. Children will write letters to Lucy a week before the holiday to let her know what gifts they would like to receive and to inform her of how obedient they have been throughout the year. On the night of December 12, families prepare their homes for the arrival of Saint Lucy by leaving refreshments as well as a bucket of water and hay for her donkey.
In Sicily, the celebrations are more religious-themed, with a feast that is held without gifts and a ceremony held on December 12 in the cathedral where the silver statue of Lucia (who is the patron of the city) is relocated from the chapel to the high altar. On the 13th, the statue is carried by a procession of 60 men throughout the city, and this procession lasts from 3:30 p.m. until 10 that night.
In Sweden, Saint Lucia's Day is celebrated with a special feast known as the Luciadagen. In this time-honored tradition, the oldest female in each family wears a white dress with a crimson sash and stockings. She is crowned with a wreath and adorned with white candles. At dawn, the girl is to wake up all the members of the family by serving coffee and Lussekatter (saffron buns) or another type of sweet bread.
While winter is typically dark and cold in Finland, the Finnish people take comfort in celebrating the warmth of the season with Saint Lucia Day festivities. The main event takes place on December 13th; however, other festivities are held earlier in the year in preparation for the traditional ceremony. In the fall, many young ladies take a chance at becoming the chosen one, the one who gets to portray Saint Lucia for that year's festivities. Ten finalists are selected by a jury and go on to the next round, where a winner is decided by popular vote. Many little girls dream of being chosen for this sacred role that has been celebrated for centuries.
The people of Denmark celebrate the spirit of the martyr Santa Lucia with a traditional event similar to those held in Finland. The procession involves young girls dressed in white carrying lit candles in their hands while singing. The ladies are led by the Lucia Queen, who wears a crown of candles atop her head. Saint Lucia Day in Denmark involves a merging of several traditions, including distributing food to the less fortunate. This event, which takes place on December 13th, is in remembrance of when Saint Lucia had to wear a crown of candles on her head in order to use both hands to carry food to beggars.
Known as Luciadagen in Norway, Saint Lucia Day is on the 13th of December and is a feast day on the traditional calendar of saints. While the country recognizes other feast days, the days of St. Lucia, St. Olav, and St. John are the only ones that are celebrated all throughout the nation. The holiday was first introduced to Norwegians in the late 1000s. At the time, the name "Lucia" was often confused with "Lucifer," and therefore St. Lucia's Day was recognized on the old Julian calendar on December 13th, which was thought to be the darkest day of the year. This began the time-honored tradition of Lussi Langnatt (Lucy Longnight) and Asgardsreia, or the Asgard Parade, which was a procession of unsettled dead souls. According to legend, restless souls would travel from one farm to another, checking to see if residents were getting ready for Christmas. If they were not, the lost souls might vandalize their property or abduct them onto the trail.
Saint Lucia's Day is usually observed on December 13. There are many beliefs as to why this day has been chosen for Saint Lucia's celebration. Some believe that it is because of the eight-day discrepancy in the Julian calendar, which would originally cause the winter solstice to fall on the 13th of December. Others believe that the celebration is held on this date because it is around the same time that Christianity was introduced to Scandinavia. Still others feel that the date represents the birth date of St. Lucy, who is the center of the folklore behind many Saint Lucia Day festivities.
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