December 13 is the feast day of St. Lucy. St. Lucy was a virgin martyr during the first centuries of Christianity under its worst persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire, therefore making her one of the most glorious saints in heaven. She is of such renown that she is one of the saints mentioned by name in the Order of the Mass, and one of only seven female saints mentioned.
Lucia means “light” and so her feast day is associated with candles, torch lights, and even bonfires. Falling during the Advent season—and thus a long, dark winter—there have been many beautiful traditions associating this saint with the meaning of her name, her life, and her glorious position in heaven.
In some Catholic cultures it’s common to have a mass procession on St. Lucy’s feast day with young girls carrying candles, with the lead girl wearing a wreath of lights (which looks similar to an Advent wreath). Tradition holds that St. Lucy would wear a wreath of candles on her head so she could see better as she served the poor Christians hiding from persecution in the dark underground catacombs of Rome.
Many countries have special St. Lucy’s day traditions, but perhaps the most well-known are the ones of Italian and Scandinavian origin. According to this resource, in Sweden, “the oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy’s Day and dress in a white gown for purity, often with a red sash as a sign of martyrdom. On her head she will wear a wreath of greenery and lit candles, and she is often accompanied by ‘starboys,’ her small brothers who are dressed in white gowns and cone-shaped hats that are decorated with gold stars, and carrying star-tipped wands. ‘St. Lucy’ will go around her house and wake up her family to serve them special St. Lucy Day foods” which were usually baked sweets.
One simple way to incorporate a St. Lucy’s day sweet treat into your family is St. Lucy’s bread. Read one family’s fun and easy St. Lucy day tradition (perfect for young girls!) here and here. You can also read more about the fascinating and inspiring life of St. Lucy from a fabulous account written by one Catholic church who enjoys her at their patron saint here. St. Lucy’s feast day is associated with so many wonderful Catholic traditions, hopefully you can incorporate them into your family or even into your parish each Advent season.
In thy patience thou didst possess thy soul, O Lucy, Spouse of Christ! Thou didst despise what is of the world, and now thou are resplendent among the choirs of angels; with thy own blood thou didst conquer the enemy! ~Antiphon of the Divine Office