Saint Lucia of Syracuse (283-304) is also known as Saint Lucy, and in Latin as Sancta Lucia. She is one of the women saints commemorated by name in the Canon of Mass. She is a Christian martyr: died in the Diocletianic Persecution during the early fourth century. As a child, she went on a pilgrimage to Saint Agatha also from Syracuse.
Saint Lucia has a special place in Lutheran Church but also venerated by the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, and Orthodox Churches. Her name ‘Lucia’ or ‘Lucy’ evokes light and purity. Winter Solstice, 21 December, is the shortest day in Northern Hemisphere, and during the shortest and darkest days, St Lucia Day is celebrated with lights, too.
Syracuse is an historic Italian city located on the island of Sicily. The 2700-year-old city was famous in the ancient times and it was a major city in the Mediterranean world at that time. It existed as a city-state like Singapore but was drawn into Italy. Its ancient heritage is visible in the city’s architecture, amphitheatres, Greek history, and culture. Its famous son is the Archimedes the mathematician and engineer.
PATRON SAINT OF SYRACUSE:
The patron saint of Syracuse is Saint Lucy or Lucia. She was born in Syracuse but her fame and popularity spread especially in the countries of northern Europe. December 13 is celebrated as Saint Lucia Day and as her feast day.
“Legends long post-dating her death state that Lucy was doomed to execution after a disgruntled pagan admirer exposed her as a Christian. A gruesome medieval addition holds that Lucy gouged out her own eyes prior to her execution to deter a suitor who delighted in their beauty. Another tradition states that Lucy could not be dragged to her execution site even by a team of oxen, so the guards piled wood all around her to devour her flesh with flames—but the kindling refused to ignite! Frustrated, one of the soldiers then thrust his sharp sword deep into her throat, bringing her brief life to a grisly end,” says My Catholic Life. “For over a millennium, Lucy’s Feast Day of December 13 fell very close to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. But the Gregorian calendar reform of 1582 corrected a ten day drift between the calendar and scientific reality, leaving December 13 now eight days before the Solstice. Lucy’s symbolic resonance as a source of light in a dark season persists, despite the calendar correction distancing her feast day from winter’s blackest hour. Somewhat curiously, Sweden’s long-dormant Catholic heritage reasserts itself on December 13, a long winter night when Swedes gladly celebrate a saint whose Latin name evokes light and purity.”
SAINT LUCIA DAY:
Saint Lucia’s Day is celebrated on 13th December. It is celebrated not only in the churches and educational institutions and homes but also in workplaces in Sweden. The day has a ring of Swedishness on Saint Lucia Day and for Saint Lucia Day: It is celebrated not only in Sweden but also by those Swedes who live abroad. The Swedish embassies mark the day and celebrate the day as one of the spectacular days in the annual calendar for it represents a Swedish tradition.
In Swedish legends, Lucia is traced to the martyr Saint Lucia of Syracuse and Lucia as Adam’s first wife and Lucia as an ancient mythical figure bringing light in the dark Swedish winters. According to a Swedish government’s website, “It is said that she consorted with the Devil and that her children were invisible infernals. The name may be associated with both lux (light) and Lucifer (Satan), and its origins are difficult to determine. The present custom appears to be a blend of traditions.
“In the old almanac, Lucia Night was the longest of the year. It was a dangerous night when supernatural beings were abroad and all animals could speak. By morning, the livestock needed extra feed. People, too, needed extra nourishment and were urged to eat seven or nine hearty breakfasts. The last person to rise that morning was nicknamed ‘Lusse the Louse’ and often given a playful beating round the legs with birch twigs. In agrarian Sweden, young people used to dress up as Lucia figures (lussegubbar) that night and wander from house to house singing songs and scrounging for food and schnapps.
“The first recorded appearance of a white-clad Lucia in Sweden was in a country house in 1764. The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 1900s, when schools and local associations in particular began promoting it. The old lussegubbar custom virtually disappeared with urban migration, and white-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past. Stockholm proclaimed its first Lucia in 1927. The custom whereby Lucia serves coffee and buns (lussekatter) dates back to the 1880s.”
Syracuse University is a private university in city named Syracuse in the New York State in the USA. It was founded in 1870, and the university is celebrating its sesquicentennial. Syracuse is a medium-sized city with more than a half a million people and about 250 miles northwest of New York City and served by Hancock International Airport.