December 13th is the feast day of St. Lucy. St. Lucy was a virgin martyr during the earliest 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 Canon of the Mass, and one of only seven female saints listed.
Lucia means “light” and so her feast day is celebrated with candles, torch lights, and even bonfires. Falling during the Advent season—and thus a long, dark winter—there are many beautiful traditions associating this saint with the meaning of her name, the story of her life, and her glorious position in heaven.
ST. LUCY’S DAY TRADITIONS
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 Scandinavin 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 ‘Star Boys,’ 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.
To celebrate her feast you can also read more about the fascinating and inspiring life of St. Lucy from a fabulous account written by one Catholic parish who enjoys her at their patron saint, which you can find 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. If you have a St. Lucy Day tradition, please comment below and tell us about it!
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 from the Divine Office for the feast of St. Lucy
This article was written in December 2012 and updated in 2015. Copyright (c) The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.