The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas, Day Four: St. Lucia

Saint Lucia – Patron Saint of the Poor and Blind

In Scandinavian tradition, the Christmas season is welcomed on St. Lucy’s Day, December 13. Young girls, usually the oldest daughter in the family, wake the family members with a breakfast of Lussekatter, currant-filled buns made golden and fragrant with saffron. The girl serves this treat to the family while wearing a crown made of holly, surmounted by several lit candles.

St. Lucy’s Day is yet another holiday observance that emphasizes the triumph of light over darkness. In the Julian calendar, the Winter Solstice fell on December 13, her feast day. St. Lucy is the Catholic patron saint of the poor and the blind—and for good reason.

Lucia lived in Sicily in the late third century AD. A devout Christian, she longed for a life of prayerful chastity, but she faced an arranged marriage. Her husband-to-be happened to compliment Lucia’s beautiful eyes. So she gouged them out and sent them to him, along with a note pleading for him to take what he most admired about her, and to leave the rest of her alone. Lucia was martyred in 303 AD.

But Lucia has a dark side, too. In legend, Lucia was identified with Adam’s first wife. She dumped Adam and took the Devil as her lover, spawning a host of demon children. On her feast night, the longest night of the year, animals gained the power of speech, and her infernal children were free to roam the earth. The next morning, people celebrated with a feast of breakfast buns, saffron-yellow to acknowledge the victory of the sun rising on another day. (Excerpted from my book Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays)

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