When is St. Lucia Day? (& Who is St. Lucia?)
Despite the holiday’s popularity in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, Saint Lucia, the Caribbean island named after the Saint, also celebrates Saint Lucia Day. It begs the question: when is St. Lucia Day, and is it celebrated on the same day in Scandinavia and the Caribbean?
Saint Lucia Day is celebrated every year on December 8 in Sweden and Saint Lucia. Also known as Saint Lucy’s day and Saint Lucia’s Feast, a widely recognized Catholic Holiday celebrated primarily in Scandinavia.
Saint Lucia Day, also known as Saint Lucy’s day and Saint Lucia’s Feast, is a widely recognized Catholic Holiday celebrated primarily in Scandinavia.
The island of St. Lucia is actually one of the few countries south of Europe to have a national celebration of the holiday. As a Caribbean island, Saint Lucia is considerably warmer than its Norwegian counterparts. Although Saint Lucia Day occurs during the winter, the celebration requires no formal winter gear.
Read on to learn more about who Saint Lucia was, how the day came to be as popular as it is now, how the day is celebrated, and more.
Who is Saint Lucia?
Saint Lucia, as you may have already guessed, was Italian. In some areas, she is known by her anglicized name, Lucy.
Lucia looked up to Saint Agatha, another religiously significant Sicilian Saint, from a young age. Following Agatha’s footsteps, Lucia consecrated her virginity and worldly pleasures to God.
Lucia aided Christians who were forced to hide from the oppressive Roman government during her life. She frequently brought out bread and water to the catacombs, and, to ensure that she was able to see while in the dark catacombs, she wore a wreath of candles around her head—the first-ever use of a makeshift headlamp.
As Lucia matured, she increasingly turned down her male suitors. One of her suitors, a Sicilian perfect, ordered that she be made a prostitute after being rejected.
However, through divine intervention, Lucia became immovable.
The perfect then ordered that Lucia be burned at the stake. Divine intervention thwarted Lucia’s attempted suitor once more and prevented her from being consumed by the flames.
After noticing that Lucia was impervious to the fire around her, a bystander made his way up to the stake and stabbed her in the neck.
Some historians have called into question the veracity of the claims made by the Catholic Church regarding Saint Lucia’s death. Instead, many believe that Saint Lucia was a martyr because of the persecution she suffered at the hands of the anti-Christian government that controlled Sicily at the time.
In any case, Lucia died because she stood firm on her beliefs, eventually leading to her canonization during the fifth century.
Fun Fact: Saint Lucia is the patron saint of the blind.
What is Saint Lucia Day?
Like other feast days in the Catholic religion, Saint Lucia Day is a day meant to commemorate and celebrate Lucia’s sacrifices for the Catholic faith.
Lucia hailed from a wealthy Italian family, and if she wanted to, she could have continued to live her life of luxury well into old age. Because of her dedication to the Catholic Church, she chose to take a stand for what she believed in.
And she was martyred because of it.
In Nordic countries, Saint Lucia is often compared to the festival of Midsomer. Both days approximate their respective solstices.
In Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia Day is comparatively disconnected from the seasons. Due to its proximity to the equator, Saint Lucia Day in Saint Lucia is much less tied to the changes in daylight hours. For St. Lucians, there is not much of a shift. In both areas, Saint Lucia Day marks the beginning of the holiday season.
It is important to note that many cultures still celebrated the winter solstice before Saint Lucia Day. With the Scandanavians in particular, many anthropologists believe that the celebration of Saint Lucia was more easily integrated into their cultures.
Nowadays, in both Scandinavia and Saint Lucia, it is apparent that pagan religious practices have significantly influenced the traditionally Christian Holliday.
How is Saint Lucia Day Celebrated?
Hundreds of years ago, before Saint Lucia was canonized, bonfires used to be lit during the winter solstice to drive away evil spirits. Many cultures have light festivals like India’s Diwali and France’s Fête des Lumières.
Because Saint Lucia Day is in December and Lucia’s penchant for lighting up the darkness, it makes sense that more Catholic countries would choose to replace their traditional light festivals with Saint Lucia Day.
Often, there is a large feast thrown by someone in your locale. Before the feast, local schools will let out early to give families time to prepare.
During this feast, children wearing white gowns and wreaths with candles bring out plates. Usually, there is one girl selected as Saint Lucia for the evening.
In the past, Saint Lucias were selected through a voting process, but today, most selections are based on random selection. In the modern-day, children are generally afforded the choice to wear either candle wreaths or wreaths with some electric alternative. Because of the inherent dangers that come with wearing an open flame, it is typically recommended that young children stick to wearing fake candles.
After eating, the children may rise and sing for their company. There are a variety of holiday songs that the children may eventually sing, but first, the children are likely to sing The Lucia Song. The lyrics go like this:
The night stalks with heavy treads
around the homestead and cottage
Around the earth forsaken by the sun
the shadows brood
Then, in[to] our dark house strides
with candles lit
Saint Lucy, Saint Lucy
The night was large and silent
Now, listen, it’s swishing
in all the quiet rooms
soughing as if by wings
See, at our doorstep stands
clad in white with lights in [her] hair
Saint Lucy, Saint Lucy
The dark shall soon flee
from the dells of the earth
So she is a wonderful
word to us speaks
The day shall again, new made
rise from a rosy sky
Saint Lucy, Saint Lucy
Why is Saint Lucia Celebrated in the Caribbean?
For most tourists, it is somewhat confusing to find that the tropical island they chose to visit celebrates the common Nordic commemoration of a Sicilian Saint. The explanation, though, is relatively simple:
Historically, Saint Lucia was referred to by the Natives as “Louanalao” by the Native Arawak tribe that occupied the islands during the pre-colonial era, meaning Island of the Iguanas. Later, after stints of colonization by the Dutch and English, the French took control of the island for trading purposes and chose to name it after the patron Saint of blindness and throat infections—Saint Lucia. The French’s reasoning behind the name is unclear to this day.
In any case, the European colonization of the island left the inhabitants with more than just their name. They also brought Catholicism to the island. Saint Lucia is still over 60% Catholic and over 70% Christian. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the predominantly Catholic country celebrates the holiday dedicated to the Saint it was named after.
Recap: When is St. Lucia Day Celebrated?
Saint Lucia Day is celebrated annually on December 8 in Saint Lucia. St. Lucia Day is a significant holiday in Saint Lucia and is an ideal opportunity to immerse yourself in the island’s vibrant culture.
The celebration has a complicated origin, and the holiday’s eventual arrival on the island is still more complex.
If you’re thinking of coming here, the namesake holiday is one of the best times to visit Saint Lucia.