Not only is Santa Lucia utterly beautiful, especially to little girls, but what she represents is awe-inspiring to adults as well: light in times of darkness. With advent calendars everywhere we look these days in early December, it’s romantic to remember what the hope of advent means. This year, December 13th is “Saint Lucy’s day,” and I wanted to share with you all the fascinating folklore of her pagan tradition. It’s celebrated mostly in Italy, Venezuela, and the Nordic countries. She wears a white dress with a red sash, and a wreath with candles on her head, how awesome! She stands for light and hope to all mankind in each varying legend, and brings food (namely, her signature buns made with saffron) to the hungry all around her. Boys participate too. They are her assistants and can wear hats with stars on them, or carry a lantern…Her feast once coincided with the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year at that time, in the Julian Calendar of the 14th century) thus, her feast day has become the Festival of Light. Legend says that to vividly celebrate St. Lucy’s Day will “help one live the long winter days with enough light.” Nice!
There are several versions of the Santa Lucia tale, including one where she’s a passionate young devout Italian martyr who hid with other persecuted Christians in the catacombs, and led them out by fixing a wreath of candles on her head because she needed her hands to be free. The Yule season was a time for feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and gatherings, but also a season of awareness and fear revolving around the forces of the dark. Usually, the eldest girl in the family acts as Santa Lucia, wears a white robe in the morning, and is allowed to wear a crown full of candles. She serves her parents Lucia buns and coffee, or mulled wine. I can’t wait until my daughter can do this for me!
Rebecca Conroy is an artist, stylist, and Editor of A Child Grows in Brooklyn. She is from New York City, and has an MFA from Columbia University in screenwriting. Rebecca often finds herself on film and photography sets making things run or look better, and is the mom of two outrageously wonderful kids.