St Lucia

St Lucia’s Day is celebrated in Sweden on the 13th of December. The name Lucy means light, and as the 13th of December used to be the Winter Solstice St Lucia’s day is now also celebrated as a festival of light.

St Lucy was a young girl who was martyred. Legend says that she used to carry food to Christians who are hiding in the catacombs under the city. She wore a crown of candles on her head to light the way so that she could keep her hands free to carry more food.

The story says that she had promised herself to Christ but her mother had betrothed her to another man. When she refused to marry the man her mother had chosen, in a rage he told the emperor that she was a Christian and that she should be killed. The emperor tried to have her dragged away but God gave her the strength to stand her ground, and even a herd of oxen could not move her. The emperor then ordered her to be burnt where she stood but the wood would not light. Furious, the emperor ordered her to be blinded, and then she was killed with a sword. She is now the patron saint of the blind.

In Sweden, St Lucia’s day is celebrated by choosing a young girl to be St Lucia. She dresses up in a white dress with a red sash and wears a crown of candles on her head – these days the candles tend to be battery-operated for safety! She joins in a procession through the streets, and hands out special cakes called St Lucia buns.