Feast Day : December 13
Patronage: Authors, blind people and blindness, cutlers, sufferers of eye diseases, sufferers of hemorrhagic illnesses, glaziers and glass workers, laborers, peasants, salesmen, writers, sufferers of throat infections, Venetian gondoliers
Also known as: Lucia
Although venerated as one of the holy virgin martyrs, little truth is known about Lucy. The accepted story, as told by the English bishop St. Aldhelm of Sherborne in the seventh century, says that Lucy was born in Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, to wealthy parents, perhaps Christians. Her father died when she was an infant. Lucy consecrated herself to God and vowed to remain a virgin at a young age. Her mother Eutychia, however, pledged her in marriage to a young pagan named Paschasius. To convince her mother of the seriousness of her resolve, Lucy accompanied Eutychia to the tomb of St. Agatha at Catania, where Eutychia’s long suffering from a hemorrhagic illness was cured. Eutychia agreed to let Lucy remain a virgin. But the rejected bridegroom denounced Lucy as a Christian to the authorities under Emperor Diocletian. The judge first sentenced Lucy to serve as a prostitute, but supposedly her body became immobile, and neither guards nor even teams of oxen could move her. Next the judge tortured her, perhaps putting her eyes out, but her sight was restored. He then tried burning her, but the fires went out. Finally Lucy died from a sword thrust to her throat. Another story says Lucy put out her own eyes and carried them on a tray to dissuade a suitor from looking at her. Whether any of the acts attributed to Lucy are true, she has a large following. In the Scandinavian countries, the feast day of Lucia is the Festival of Lights. In some Swedish farming communities, a young girl dressed in white with a red sash and a crown of lingonberry twigs and candles goes from house to house, carrying a torch and leaving baked goods. In most Norwegian and Swedish families, usually the youngest daughter dresses in white as the “Lussibrud” (Lucy bride) on Lucy’s Day, December 13, and wakes the rest of the family with a song and a tray of coffee and saffron buns called “Lussikattor” (Lucy cats). Both celebrations can be traced to her role as “bringer of light.” Under the old Julian calendar, the winter solstice occurred on December 13 rather than on the later Gregorian December 21, meaning the long northern nights of darkness would turn into the long days of light. Lucy’s Day also ushered in the Yuletide, with Lucy candles in the house and Lucy fires in the fields to welcome the birth of the True Light of the World. All preparations for Christmas were completed by Lucy’s Day. The Church did not always venerate Lucy. Because of the meaning of her name in Latin, Lucy was originally associated with the fallen angel Lucifer. The saffron buns that the Lucy bride delivers represented the devil’s cats. Indeed, the buns are made in a crossed shape where the front rolls, or arms, are turned inward, much as a cat often sits. Lucy’s remains supposedly went to Constantinople and then to Venice during the Crusades, where they are buried in the Church of Santa Lucia. Venetian gondoliers honor her by singing the famous song “Santa Lucia” as they row visitors through the canals.