The Feast of Santa Lucia: December 13

a blog post from Melody Schwarting, Children’s Sunday School Coordinator

Lucia of Syracuse (c. 283-304 ACE) was born into a wealthy family, bestowed with beauty and a winning personality. Her advantages could have led to an easy life, but her faith in Christ compelled Lucia to choose differently. She lived in danger because the Roman emperor Diocletian persecuted Christians. Instead of choosing marriage, which promised security and financial independence, she chose celibacy, giving her dowry to the poor. This placed her in even greater danger, because she publicly rejected the Roman social order for women and Roman civil religion. A disappointed suitor alerted the authorities to Lucia’s Christian beliefs, and she was arrested. Though her captors attempted to overpower her, the Lord protected her, and she died by the sword.

Lucia’s name comes from the Latin word lux, “light.” In older calendar traditions, northern Europeans observed the shortest day of the year on December 13, which is also St Lucia’s feast day. Celebrating Lucia’s feast day on the shortest, darkest day of the year has helped Christians remember the light of Christ advances, even when natural light is faint and cold. This is why we celebrate Christmas at the darkest time of year, close to the winter solstice: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV) The Anglican poet John Donne called Lucia’s feast day “the year’s midnight,” when “the sun is spent” and “life is shrunk.” With her feast day nestled in the dark folds of Advent, St Lucia reminds us that the Light is coming.

Even with the modern convenience of electric light, we still grow weary of thin hours of sunshine as winter approaches. Celebrating St Lucia’s feast day can be a lift in the dark, fasting season of Advent. As in Scandinavian tradition, you may consider volunteering to be the Lucia in your household for the day, serving a special breakfast like cinnamon rolls or lussekatter (Lucia cat) buns. Lucia gave away her wealth, and acts of generosity are a special way to honor her memory. As night falls early, try sitting in the darkness, noting how it feels to let darkness close in. Light a candle to proclaim Christ’s victory over the darkness, holding on to that feeling of anticipation while looking toward the Christmas feast.

A Collect for St Lucia

Loving God, for the salvation of all you gave Jesus Christ as light to a world in darkness: Illumine us, as you did your daughter Lucia, with the light of Christ, that by the merits of his passion, we may be led to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.