December 13th, St. Lucy's Day

 Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent,
Now hear its gentle wings,
In every room so hushed,
Whispering like wings.
Look, at our threshold stands,
White-clad with light in her hair,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon,
From earth's valleys.
So she speaks
Wonderful words to us:
A new day will rise again
From the rosy sky…
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
--Santa Lucia, Traditional Swedish Folk Song

St. Lucy's Liturgy
This post is obviously a little late, but I wanted to touch on it before the month was up.  Saint Lucy is a very interesting figure.  Her story is that she was a young woman in ancient Sicily during the reign of Diocletian.  A devout Christian, she converted her mother by curing her illness by praying at the tomb of Saint Agatha.  Her intended fiance, however, was unmoved, and betrayed her as a Christian.  Legends differ about the bowl she usually carries containing a pair of eyes.  In some versions, her eyes are removed as part of her torture by the local governor, in others, she plucks them out and gives them to her admirer,  begging him to leave her alone to worship God. 

Lucy comes from the same root word as light, and between her name and story, she is the patron of eyesight, including the blind.  While she is celebrated in many countries, receiving special devotion in Italy and Catholic parts of Switzerland.

It is in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, however, that devotion to Saint Lucy took an interesting twist.  There, she has attributes that she doesn't have elsewhere, and still has a strong tradition despite centuries of Lutheran majority, and a strong secular modern culture. 

The oldest daughter in a house will get up before light, put on a white dress with a red sash, and wear a wreath with candles in her hair.  She then will serve hot drinks and breakfast to her family.  Processions, involving Lucy and her followers, children dressed in white, with silver crowns for the girls and tall pointed hats with stars for the boys, will go to schools, elder care centers, and other public places as well. 

White, red, green wreaths and candles...none of which belong to St. Lucy in her native Italy.  It's enough to make one think, "well, huh".  Especially since the 12th or  13th was the Solstice for many years in the old Julian Calendar.  What is the Scandinavian St. Lucy a memory of, exactly?  What did the Catholic tradition mesh with, and allow to continue?  Why are her little saffron buns often referred to as Kattr--cats?  At this point, St. Lucy makes me ask more questions then she answers, but the traditions linked to her--her light shining in the darkness--make this something worth further investigation. 
Recipe here.


~~louise~~ said...

What a beautiful post for St. Lucy's Day, Jesse. I too missed it this year. I do think I may have posted about her a while back.

Thank you so much for sharing. I'm going to save this link for next year:)

A Very Happy, Safe & Healthy New Year to You and Yours! Louise:)

Kjerstin said...

Love this! :D We celebrate Lucia at my house every year, both on our own at home and with the Swedish community in the area. So much fun... and so much good food!

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Jesse,
Hope all is well with you and yours.

Jesse (Great Grandmother's Kitchen) said...

Thanks, both of you!

I think I'm back for good, finally....*fingers crossed*

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