Photo by Fredrik L. Magnusson from Wikimedia Commons, (CC by 2.0)

Saint Lucy of Syracuse, Sicily, also known as Santa Lucia, is the patron saint of eye ailments. Her feast day is today, 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.

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