Today we celebrate the coming of the Christ light into the darkness of our world. Scandinavians, who live in deep darkness through the winter especially celebrate the coming of the light which overcomes the darkness of their world. Historically, December 13th, before changing to the Gregorian calendar, was the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Thus, to rejoice in the coming of the Christ light, on December 13 the Swedes celebrate Lucia, a young Sicilian woman who lived in the reign of terror of the Emperor Diocletian.
The beautiful story of Lucia is of a young woman promised by her family to a young nobleman in marriage. As a new Christian believer who was zealous and strong in her new faith, Lucia took her dowry money to buy food and clothing for the Christians who were hiding in the catacombs during this time of persecution. She brought these alms under cover of darkness wearing a wreath of candles on her head to help her find her way in the catacombs. She refused to marry the young man who was not a believer and without a dowry this settled the matter. The noble family denounced Lucia to the authorities as a Christian. She was tortured and martyred. There are many gruesome stories of her martyrdom, one notably being that her eyes were put out and she was burned. Within the 4th century, the Emperor Constantine declared the Roman Empire to be Christian and persecution ceased. Lucia was made an early saint and martyr of the church.
How did Lucia, a young Sicilian martyr and saint become the patron saint of Scandinavia?
There is a lovely legend that goes like this…..A famine had come across the land and though the people were not starving , it was Christmastide and there was no sugar, no flour, no butter to make the special baked goods which the Swedes love, especially at Christmas. It was December 13th and the villagers had all gone to mass to celebrate the feast day of Santa Lucia. Upon returning home, outside the door of each home was a bag of sugar, flour and butter. It was a gift from heaven and it was declared a miracle of Santa Lucia! Lucia brought hope and light to these villagers of long ago. Through the centuries, the tradition has been kept by the oldest daughter of a family awakening during the dark to put on a halo of candles and go through her home awakening her family with coffee and Lucia buns. She sings a song with her sisters, the angels and her brothers, the star boys.
The song of Santa Lucia
“Forgotten by the sun, all earth wears winter’s gloom.
Darkness surrounds us all, shadows fill every room
Comes she with candles bright-who is this child of light?
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.”
John 1: 1-13
Pastor Joy Kulvicki