Beautiful Procession of Santa Lucia
Photo by Fredrik L. Magnusson Wikipedia Commons (cc by 2.0)
I was watching the British version of Antiques Roadshow last night on Britbox and a woman brought in a few hundred postcards to get her collection appraised. A few were taken out of their display book for the camera to zoom in on. One of the cards had a depiction of Santa Lucia Day procession like the one above. I was surprised when the collector mentioned that she thought it was religious ceremony of some kind and the host of show, who is otherwise very conversant on all things culture, seemed to add little to the conversation. They seemed to know next to nothing about Santa Lucia.
If you watch travel shows about the Christmas Holidays, you have probably seen film of the beautiful celebrations of Santa Lucia or Saint Lucy. Saint Lucy of Syracuse, Sicily, also known as Santa Lucia, is the patron saint of eye ailments. Her feast day is December 13.
The feast day falls close to Christmas and the celebrations in some way evoke the Christian Holiday. Young girls sometimes wear a wreath of candles on their heads as tradition holds that Santa Lucia did to see better while serving poor Christians hiding in catacombs. In some Scandinavian homes, the oldest daughter dresses in a white gown on the feast day and wakes up family members and serves them Santa Lucia Day sweets. In some parishes, a special Mass procession on Santa Lucia’s feast day is held with young girls carrying candles and the lead girl wearing a wreath of lights.
Saint Lucy lived in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries. She, along with Saint Agnes, Saint Agatha and Saint Cecilia, are known as the four great virgin martyrs of the early church. In the 6th century, her name was added to the Canon of the Mass. At the end of the 7th century, the English Bishop Saint Aldhelm of Sherborne wrote about her.
Devotion to Saint Lucy is not only strong in her native Sicily, but throughout the Christian world and especially in Protestant Scandinavia where they celebrate the feast day of “Santa Lucia” with great devotion and affection for the saint. Saint Lucy is one of the saints listed in the Canon of the Mass.
Information on Santa Lucia is taken from Worthwhile Struggle one of our Sports and Faith Series books by Patrick McCaskey. Worthwhile Struggle was published (Jan. 2019) by sportingchancepress.com.
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