St. Lucia ( St.Lucy’s) was a young girl from in Syracuse, Sicily, who lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. There is little known of her except that she was brave. Legends grew over time.
One legend states that she had vowed her life to the service of Christ. However, her mother arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucia rejected her would-be husband, so in turn her sent guard to drag her off to a brothel to work as a prostitute. The guards were unable to move the girl as she was stiff and heavy as a mountain. As a result she was tortured and killed.
Another is that she brought food to persecuted Christians. However, this was a crime. She was caught and burned at the stake for treason.
St. Lucia’s feast day once coincided with Winter Solstice, so her feast day has become a festival of light. Lucy means “light.” It is celebrated mostly in Scandinavia where the winder are long and dark.
In Sweden, she is remembered as young girls dress in white with brilliant red sashes and a wreath of candles about their heads (today the candles are battery operated). The eldest girl delivers a tray of saffron buns and coffee or tea to the parents. Boys also dress in white with white pointed hats covered with stars. They are called “Star Boys”. There are many pageants and one girl has the honor of being the “Lucia Bride” and leads the pageant followed by the other children.
In Italy, Saint Lucy’s Day is a feast day dedicated to Lucia of Syracuse (died 304).
In Finland, Luciadagen is observed a week before the Winter Solstice. St. Lucy is celebrated as a “beacon of brightness” in the darkest time of year.