Tuesday, December 13

St. Lucia invites you to breakfast

One nice thing about being a time traveler is that I get to experience lots of customs with my friends throughout the years. Today is Dec. 13, also known as Santa Lucia's day, so I'm off to visit my friend Kirsten Larson in Minnesota. She's Pleasant Company so I'll let her tell you her story: 
Kirsten is a brave, steadfast pioneer girl growing up on the Minnesota prairie in 1854. Her stories begin with her long, dangerous voyage with her family from Sweden to America. At first, Kirsten finds it difficult to get used to this strange new country. But as she makes friends and discovers what her new land has to offer, she learns the true meaning of home—and that love is the same in any language.

According to Holy Women, Holy Men: Lucy, or Lucia, was martyred at Syracuse, in Sicily, during Diocletian’s reign of terror of 303-304, among the most dramatic of the persecutions of early Christians. Her tomb can still be found in the catacombs at Syracuse. She was venerated soon after her death and her cult spread quickly throughout the church. She is among the saints and martyrs named in the Roman Canon of the Mass. Most of the details of Lucy’s life are obscure. In the tradition she is remembered for the purity of her life and the gentleness of her spirit. Because her name means “light,” she is sometimes thought of as the patron saint of those who suffer from diseases of the eyes. 

In popular piety, Lucy is perhaps most revered because her feast day, Dec. 13, was for many centuries the shortest day of the year. (The reform of the calendar by Pope Gregory VIII (1582) would shift the shortest day to December 21/22, depending upon the year.) It was on Lucy’s day that the light began gradually to return and the days to lengthen. This was particularly powerful in northern Europe where the days of winter were quite short. In Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden, Lucy’s day has long been a festival of light that is kept as both an ecclesiastical commemoration and a domestic observance. 

In the domestic celebration of Lucia-fest, a young girl in the family dresses in pure white (a symbol of Lucy’s faith, purity, and martyrdom) and wears a crown of lighted candles upon her head (a sign that on Lucy’s day the light is returning) and serves her family special foods prepared especially for the day. In praise of her service, the young girl is called Lucy for the day.

Loving God, who for the salvation of all didst give Jesus
Christ as light to a world in darkness: Illumine us, with thy
daughter Lucy, 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 thee and the Holy Spirit liveth
and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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