Today is St. Lucy’s Day, one in a series of December celebrations of light.
Lucy is a Sicilian saint, the patroness of Syracuse where she was martyred in the reign of Diocletian. One story says that when a suitor admired her beautiful eyes she cut them out and sent them to him, asking to be left in peace thereafter (like most early Christian virgin martyrs, she refused marriage). Now she is the patron of eye diseases and the blind and is often depicted carrying her eyeballs on a plate….
Apparently untroubled by the gruesome imagery, Italians eat St. Lucy’s eyes, cakes or biscotti shaped like eyeballs….The celebration of St Lucy spread over all of Europe. But the place where she is most beloved is Scandinavia, where light is especially welcome in the long hours of winter darkness. On her day, the eldest (or youngest) daughter rises before dawn and fixes a breakfast of special pastries and coffee for her family. She appears in their bedrooms, dressed in a white dress belted with a red sash, and wearing a wreath of greens and four (or seven or nine) lighted candles. Sometimes the wreath is made of green rue and decorated with red ribbons. She serves traditional pastries called lussekatter (or Lucy cats), x-shaped pastries, sometimes flavored with saffron. Other traditional foods served in her honor include saffron buns, ginger biscuits and glogg, a hot spiced wine with aquavit.
Here in central Pennsylvania, the weather gods are celebrating St. Lucy’s Day with our first real snow of the season. And why not? A blanket of snow is the only real way to diminish the darkness this time of year.
UPDATE: Check out the great poem, and additional links, at Watermark.