Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Lucia Day: 2007

Inspired by reading "Kirsten's Surprise," my daughter asked me if we could celebrate the feast day of Saint Lucia, which is December 13.

This was in August. We are not either Italian or Swedish, but we are Catholic. At least I knew that Saint Lucia was the famous Lucy of the brutal martyrdom.

After a little bit of research, I learned about the beautiful, sweet ceremony that commemorates this day. Saint Lucy, with her bright shining candles, reminds us to be the light in the darkness. And her offerings of food and drink remind us to be giving and kind to others. The white gown symbolizes the young woman's purity and the red reminds us of her martyrdom.

By December, we were ready to celebrate this day.

Morning Light
At 5:34 a.m., my daughter woke up early to prepare breakfast for the family. (Because she is seven years old and it's our first year, I also woke up to help.) Many families make St. Lucy bread, but, being pressed for time and tired from last night's ice skating, we opted for easy bake cinnamon rolls.

As they baked, she dressed in her St. Lucia outfit: a simple white gown and her candle crown. The gown was a white snow princess outfit that we bought the day after Halloween for $10. The candle crown was from Hemslojd Swedish Gifts.

She took the rolls, poured the coffee in a mug for her daddy and put everything in a tray. Then, she quietly went to wake up her father for work. He woke up, very surprised to see his little girl wearing candles in the dark but touched by her bringing him breakfast in bed. She then took some cinnamon rolls to her brothers' bedroom, leaving them by their bed. (Traditionally, in Sweden, she would have awoken the
household with song, but her little brothers get grumpy if awoken early.)

Then, the three alert family members ate cinnamon rolls together and talked a little about how St. Lucia went out in the darkness, shining her light to others.

Unit Study for the Day

Learn about Saint Lucy

Read this excerpt from Catholic Encyclopedia: "Lucy's name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. Shrouded in the darkness of time, all we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith.

Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.

Unfortunately, legend has it, the rejected bridegroom did not see the same light and he betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her stiff and heavy as a mountain. Finally she was killed. As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian's reign."

Read the above materials and Website.

Read "
Kristin's Surprise" (an American Girl book).

Look up the different countries in which St. Lucy's feast day is celebrated:

Italy (her birthplace): Italians celebrate by eating small cakes or biscotti shaped like eyes, in memory of her having her eyes gouged out. A bit gross? Maybe, but they're not really eyes, after all, and the cakes taste good. They also light huge bonfires, also in memory of St. Lucy being a light to others in the darkness of troubling times and also for her using candles to light her way to serve the poor. Sicilians pay tribute to a miracle performed by St Lucy during a famine in 1582. Their prayers were answered by bringing a flotilla of grain-bearing ships to starving Sicily, whose citizens cooked and ate the wheat without taking time to grind it into flour. Thus, on St. Lucy's Day, Sicilians don't eat anything made with wheat flour, but eat a cooked wheat called cuccia.

Sweden: The oldest daughter in each household brings coffee and traditional pastries called lussekatter (Lucy cats) on a tray to her parents before they arise in the morning. She wears a white gown, scarlet sash, and a crown of greens and four, seven, or nine lighted candles. If she has other sisters, they are dressed in white and carry lit candles, and accompany her. Any brothers? They are called "star boys" (not Star Wars boys) and wear tall, cone-shaped hats decorated with stars. Some towns choose one girl to represent Saint Lucy at a celebration. Why the candles on the wreath? It's in memory of St. Lucia's going through the darkened woods, bringing food to the poor. In those days, she couldn't have used a flashlight, so she put candles on a wreath around her head, so her hands would be free to carry items to the poor.

Switzerland: Lucy accompanies Father Christmas. She doles out gifts to girls; he, to the boys.

Write four sentences about Santa Lucia.

Describe how to dress for a Saint Lucia celebration.

Copy the following prayer to St. Lucia: "Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation -- every corner of our day. Amen." (from

Listen to "
Lucia Celebration and Christmas in Sweden" (which has the narration in English, songs in Swedish).

Make St. Lucy bread.

Make a
paper Santa Lucia Crown.

Discuss the
Lucia painting by Carl Larsson.

Have the student draw their own version of the Lucia painting.

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