The story of St. Lucia
The story of Lucia, the symbol of light amid the darkness for Sweden, has many different versions. Although her feast day is celebrated on December 13th in Sweden, she was born far away in southern Italy, in the third century A.D. It is said that she became a Christian after she prayed for her mother to be healed. After she witnessed her mother being healed, she made a vow never to marry and to give the money that would have been her dowry to the poor.
She refused to marry the man her family had chosen for her. Some say he denounced her for her faith and was responsible for having her put to death. Lucia died a martyr’s death in 303 A.D. and was declared a saint. She is Santa Lucia to the Italians, Santa Lucia to the Swedes, and St. Lucia, or St. Lucy, to all English speakers. How the story of Lucia came to be such an important part of Swedish culture is somewhat of a mystery. Did the Vikings know of her and brought her legend to the North? Did the monks and priests tell of her martyrdom’s? Of course. Sweden was once a Roman Catholic country and the stories of the saints were often told & retold in the Catholic religion. However, Sweden has been Lutheran for hundreds of years. It is not clear how the saint from Sicily became Sweden’s beacon of light during the darkest period of the year. To this day, December 13TH is one of the high points of the Christmas season and candles are lit all over Sweden to bear light against the darkness, as Lucia did.
Lucia was said to wear a white gown with a red ribbon tied around the waist. On her head she wore a wreath crowned with a ring of lighted candles. She would bring food to people, who were dying of hunger during a famine many years ago. Every year at my church we have a Lucia service. A new girl is chosen every year. On her head is a real crown is actual candles that are lit. It is a beautiful service. I myself am Italian. The church I attend is Swedish. My Uncle(Zio) had told me that in fact the man Lucia was suppose to marry was the one who turned her in. Not only did they burn her body but took her eyes. In Italy all the statues show Lucia holding a plate with two eyes on it. I find it interesting that the Swedish honor her in such a wonderful way. To all St. Lucia was one who beared light against the darkness even though it cost her life. What would we do if faced with the same situation?