- Holidays and Celebrations
Visions Of St. Lucy - in Midwinter?
Lucia the Mother of Midwinter
Through December we revel in the expectation of the sacred man who visits at this time who maybe
Santa, St. Nicholas, Odin, Father Winter or the Green Man under his many names,
So here are some words about
Lucia, the Mother of Midwinter.
Saint Lucy, Santa Lucie, Santa Lucia
Saint Lucy's Day or Feast of St. Lucy is observed on December 13, especially in the Norse countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, as well as in states in the United States that is home a large number of people of Scandinavian ancestry, such as in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.
St. Lucy and her day is also observed through Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, Bavaria, Croatia, Bosnia, Italy, Malta and of course at St. Lucia in the West Indies..
Lucia's story begins ...
St. Lucy's story is similar to that of other saints.
It is said she born into the home of wealthy Christian parents, her father from Rome and her mother from Greece. Lucy's birthplace is Syracusa in Sicily.
Her father passed on when she was a couple of years old. Her mother, Eutychia took care of her, guided her and encouraged her to live by Christian faith right through her teens. This had to be in secret as Christianity was outlawed in Sicily then.
In her late teens, Lucy's mother attempted to match Lucy to a wealthy nobleman, who was not a follower of the Christian Faith, but a man strong attached to the old ways. Secretly,
Lucy had already vowed to become a virgin Christian nun. This was a dangerous passion and commitment to make. It had to be a lifelong secret in 4th century Sicily.
While in her teens, Lucy's mother was afflicted with an illness that caused her to hemorrhage frequently. Physicians could not provide a remedy, but Lucy had faith in an alternative cure ...
miracle at the tomb of St. Agatha
St. Agatha had experienced the same illness as Lucy's mother, about 50 years earlier, and she had been gifted with relief through prayer.
t took four years for Lucy to encourage her mother to visit Catana and offer her prayers to God, asking for her own healing and relief at the tomb of St. Agatha.
When Lucy eventually accompanied her mother to the tomb they spent an entire night praying there until, overcome by weariness, they fell asleep.
Within her sleep, St. Agatha appeared in vision to Saint Lucy saying "You will soon be the glory of Syracuse, as I am of Catania". When Lucy and her mother awoke, her mother became instantly aware she was healed.
It was at that moment that Lucy revealed to her mother her desire of devoting herself to God in a state of perpetual virginity. She also asked her mother if she could use her dowry, saved to give to a potential husband, to help the poor and hungry.
From this story, an important lasting image of Saint Lucy that became shared is Lucy's dream of St. Agatha by her tomb. This has become a revered symbol among women. It is a symbol vision of a woman having a vision about sacred woman healing another woman.
St. Lucy carries a tradition of healing the blind, helping those in the dark to see the light again. In this story this is another symbol of helping others, especially women, see clearer.
and Lucia was judged
The young nobleman, that Lucy's mother was attempting to match her daughter to, heard of Lucy;s true devotion and was angered. He told the governor of Syracusa of Lucy's devotion to Christ.
Lucy was brought before the judge who is said to have sentenced her prostitution in a brothel, if she did not relinquish her faith in court. Lucy refused the judge's order, and she stood firm, refusing to leave the courtroom to be taken to the brothel.
A tale is told saying that even 100 soldiers linked together could not move Lucy from the court. They surrounded her with logs, set fire to them, but they did not burn her. The flames went out and the logs could not be re-lit again.
Lucy was then slayed with a sword through the heart though some stories say it was a sword through the throat, and she died there in the courtroom. This event was recognized as an act of martyrdom for Christianity from a couple of hundred years later.
After the court room slaying, Lucy's body remains remained undisturbed in Sicily for about 400 years. Her remains were then moved to the Italian mainland, then onto Constantinople in the 10th century, and finally onto Venice in the 11th century. Her skull was removed from her remains in Venice and sent to Louis XII of France, who placed it in the cathedral of Bourges where it remains today.
my Eyes are your Eyes
There is an additional gruesome story of that courtroom scene that included Lucy's eyes being prized out by soldiers so she would not see her suitors at the brothel she was sentenced to attend.
It is said that as soon as her hazel eyes were pulled from their sockets, bright blue eyes instantly grew back into her eye sockets that made her more beautiful than before.
This "miracle" has become her symbolism of guiding people from dark to light and for curing the blind from dark to seeing. This part of her story has developed reverence of her being the patron saint of the blind.
Some romanticism paintings depict St. Lucy carrying her eyes on a plate.
and Lucia became Light
Lucy's Latin name, "Lucia," means "Light," and light plays a role in the customs of her Feast Day.
According to the Julian calendar, December 13th was the shortest day of the year, the midwinter day.
The change to the Gregorian calendar, we use today, altered that date to December 21st.
So the original Feast of Lucy was actually at Yule,
a Winter Solstice feast.
Lucia died on the day of shortest daylight and
on that day of passing her old eyes taken from her and new eyes instantly grew back, more beautiful and brighter than ever, as a gift of God.
Overall, I find this story of Lucia as a midwinter story quite beautiful as it is a feminine story compared to the masculine Odin, Green Man,
Father Winter, St. Nick and Santa Claus stories of this time.
Strangely, the change from Julian to Gregorian calender did not change the December 13th date, so it was moved away from the midwinter solstice day.
Even so, we cannot deny that Lucy's feast day to honour her includes association with change from darkness to light. This is in the same spirit of how we celebrate Yule and celebrate the daylight within days becoming longer from three days after solstice day,
the Christmas Day..
On Lucy's feast day as well as lighted processions led by girls as "Lucy's" people also celebrate around bonfires and use these fires to cook and bake for the feast.
A traditional dish of this celebration is bowls of a wheat porridge known as cuccia.
This is because during a famine of 1582 the people of Syracuse prayed for St. Lucy to guide them and save them, and ships laden with grain arrived at Sicily which the people there believed were guided there by St. Lucia.
Cuccia can be made as a savory or sweet recipe.
The wheat is most often soaked overnight, rinsed, simmered in water for 3 hours or until tender, and then served with milk and sugar, much like oatmeal porridge is.
A more gourmet sweet Cuccia recipe could be ...
- 1 pound whole wheat
- 10 ounces fig honey or other flavorful honey
- 1 or 2 oranges
- the peel grated and used (or use Â½ cup of assorted candied fruits)
- 3 oz or 1/3rd cup of chopped walnuts
- 2 drops of vanilla or some chopped vanilla pod crushed
- 1 teaspoon of sugar mixed with a pinch of cinnamon powder or nutmeg or both
- Â¼ cup chopped chocolate or chips (optional)
- Soak the grain in cold water for 24 hours then rinse it.
- Boil it in new water for three hours or until tender. Let it cool.
- Drain and return it to the heat, or embers of the bonfire
- and add honey, orange peel, and walnuts.
- Serve in bowls when warmed up again
A Lunch Recipe
First, prepare cooked Cuccia from whole wheat berries as described above, but without adding honey, walnuts and peel
- 3 cups of Cuccia from wholewheat berries
- one can undrained red kidney beans (plain not chilli flavour)
- one can undrained chick peas.
- one clove of garlic
- dash of cayenne pepper or paprika
- one tablespoon olive oil
- one cup water
- 2 or 3 cut chopped tomatoes or can of tomatoes (optional)
- Cuccia is first prepared like in the sweet recipes
- and 3 cups taken from the batch for this meal.
- Put all of the other ingredients with the Cuccia in one pan,
- Simmer for a few minutes to blend flavours
- longer, about 15 minutes if you included tomatoes
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Serve into bowls
- Nice with sprinkled parmesan cheese or other grated cheese
A Stir Fry Recipe
First, prepare cooked Cuccia from whole wheat berries as described above, but without adding honey, walnuts and peel
- 1 or 2 cups of Cuccia from wholewheat berries
- one can of drained chick peas
- small onion or 2 or 3 shallots
- clove of garlic
- some olive oil
- pre-cooked rice
- favourite spices such as cayenne turmeric cumin curry powder five spice etc.
- Cuccia is first prepared like in the sweet recipes
- and 3 cups taken from the batch for this meal.
- Pre-cook rice as desired, boiled, fried, egg fried.
- I like a 3 parts basmati to 1 part wild rice mix myself.
- In a pan heat up olive oil or could be peanut, walnut or rape oil
- Add chopped onion, shallots, garlic.
- I like to add my favourite spices when the onions and garlic are sautÃ©ed
- Add the Cuccia and stir in
- Heat up the rice in another pan and serve onto plates or in a bowl.
- Top with the Cuccia mix and enjoy
about Lucy Cats - and recipes
In Sweden, and maybe in other Scandinavian reagions, the oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy's Day and dress in a white gown for purity. The white dress may be tied with a red sash as a symbol of her martyrdom. On her head she will wear a wreath of winter greenery and lights.
She would then make a breakfast for the family of Lussekatter, known also as Lucy Cats,
and served with coffee.
Here's how to make 10-12 Lucy Cats buns
Prep Time: 40 to 60 mins
Total Time: 4 to 5 hours to allow rising times
Serves: 10 to 12
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- 8 ounces (1 cup) milk
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 4 fl. oz (1/2 cup) honey or sugar
- 4 ounces butter
- 2.5 lb (5 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt or a cup of dried dulse
- spices such as ginger
- chinese five spice (optional)
- 3 large eggs
- Pound saffron threads to powder the strands, preferably using mortise and pestle.
- In a small saucepan, heat milk to lukewarm.
- Mix yeast with 1/4 cup of the luke warm milk and mix in half of the honey or sugar.
- Set aside.
- On low heat, melt butter in saucepan with remainder of the milk,
- Add the crushed saffron, allow to cool.
- While waiting for the butter to melt and then the milk liquid to cool,
- mix together flour, salt and the remaining honey or sugar in a bowl.
- You could also add ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and/or chinese fice spice at this stage too.
- I prefer dulse to salt, and dry fresh dulse seaweed in a skillet or frying pan until crispy and crushable
- Stir yeast into the cooled milk mixture.
- Pour that into dry ingredients very slowly, beating as you pour, this must mix well.
- Crack the eggs and extract a little of the egg white, and set that aside.
- Kitchen stores and departments sell very inexpensive egg white separator tools that make this task very simple
- Beat up the remaining eggs and add to your yeasted mixture
- Knead everything in the bowl for 5 - 10 minutes.
- Turn the ball onto a floured board and knead another 8 to 10 minutes.
- Place well kneaded dough into a lightly oiled or greased bowl,
- Cover and put in warm draft free place to rise for about 1 hour.
- When dough has risen, knead lightly again for 2 minutes to push out air
- Divide into small pieces, to form about 10 - 12 buns
- Then use your hands to roll each small dough piece
- into a strip that is about 10 inches long.
- Shape each strip into an 'S'
- Place on lightly buttered cookie sheets.
- Cover with clean cloth and let rise again for 1 to 1 1/2 hours,
- however long it takes for the dough to double its size
- Turn on oven to preheat to 375Â°F after about 45 minutes of waiting for this rise.
- When dough has risen, place large sultanas into the ring of each S,
- to give the image of Lucy's Eyes, or dates chopped in half can do this too.
- Brush the tops lightly with egg white.
- Bake in preheated 375Â° F oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, if you can,
- Then serve, with perhaps choices of butter, thick cream, marmalade, jams, honey
- and I quite like scambled egg that has been peppered and nutmeged in mine :-)
- If you wish to go very traditional with this
- bake on a fire, in a clay oven, cast dutch oven or metal box on the fire.
- They can even be baked carefully in a griddle with frequent turning,
- I've done that, it works very well.
Lucia of the Year
In Scandinavia St. Lucy and St. Lucy's Day is one of the very few days of saints celebrated through Scandinavia. Some believe this Scandinavian reverence for Lucy has evolved from, or replaced, winter reverence and calling of light from Freya.
In the home the Lucia daughter would serve her parents, and any other adult residents, breakfast of Lucy Cats and coffee. She would do this accompanied by any brothers, who are called "starboys", dressed in white gowns, white shorts more common today, and cone-shaped hats decorated with gold stars, and each boy carrying a wand with star image on the end. Any sisters would join in too, also wearing white gowns, blouses or shirts and each carrying a candle.
With families being smaller, these days, this may be something that is pre-arranged with a group of families
who join together, maybe for mid morning coffee or lunch and their children
pool together to re-create the Lucy Cats baking and serving traditions.
There is a story that as a virgin teen, Lucy would make these buns, these rolls, and in the dark would travel through forests, with light, to deliver them to the poor that lived there.
To re-anact this "Lucy in the woods" tradition, many communities, villages and towns host an event that chooses "Lucia Of The Year". The chosen Lucia leads a procession of starboys and luciagirls. In some places this may include offering Lucy Cats with coffee to some shops, houses, passers-by or as a charity fundraiser, and even hand to the poor of the town.
In these processions there could be a St. Steven, a man on horseback, leading the way.
In parts of Switzerland, St Lucy is accompanied by Father Christmas.
Lucy gives gifts to the girls while Father Christmas gives gifts to the boys.
bringer of Green Wheat for Midwinter
Another Lucy tradition comes from the miracle of feeding the famine at Sicily. The tradition is to grow wheat in time for Christmas.
Plant wheat seeds on Saint Lucy's Day, December 13, in a plate or tray of soil or potting compost, then water the seeds.
Place the container in a warm spot. If the planting medium is kept moist, the seeds will germinate and the shoots will be several inches high by Christmas.
These new green shoots of wheat,
can be interpreted in different ways.
The Christian symbolism is a reminder of new life born in Bethlehem.
The turf of new wheat grass can be taken from its growing tray and the root and soil base cut into a circle. The tops of the green wheat grass can be tied with a ribbon and a candle may be placed near it as a symbol of the Light of Christ. This arrangement can be placed near the home Nativity scene as a symbol of Christ, the Bread of Life, born in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem's town name translates as "House of Bread."
The wheat also recalls the Eucharist which is made from wheat.
It also brings to mind Christ's various parables about wheat:
To me Lucia's wheat symbol is a reminder of the Virgo symbol association of the Virgin holding a small sheaf of wheat, even though December is not a Virgo month.
The life of Christ continued to give us stories rich in symbols of the age of the Piscean - Virgo polarity that followed from Christ for the last 2000 years and more.
Sprouting and growing wheat, or any grain, as green through the shortest day has a powerful symbolism of this time. Since I was a child I have always had a feeling that an important component of the Christmas Day feast was a live food grown in this most difficult cultivation season of this year.
This could be achieved through sprouting beansprouts or creating an energizing juice made from the fresh grown wheat, or other grain, grass and stored apples.
Apples are our perfect sustaining food of the winter.
There are excellent wheatgrass sprouting kits and masicating juicers perfect for this purpose and serve a true celebration of this time.
In fact, to also honour the improved vision and seeing legacy of Lucy,
why not add a carrot to your live juice too?
the miracle in the New World
When I lived in Florida for awhile I lived for over a year in Martin County at a place called San Lucia. Historically this small, now quite unknown, village was the second "white person" settlement ever set up in the USA after St. Augustine, also in Florida.
It is said that sailors heading for St. Augustine went off course in a storm and were shipwrecked off of the coast. The story tells of them being led ashore and into safety by a light like a lighthouse light. The sailors and passengers decided this was a powerful symbolic omen guiding them to settle there rather than travel onto St. Augustine.
They called the town, really a small village, San Lucia after their saint that is patron to healing the blind and guiding people out of darkness. These people believed that Lucia gave them light and sight to come ashore after the storm had blinded them.
Adjoining the Florida county of Martin County is the county of Port St. Lucie, which was also named after Lucia. The St. Lucie river that runs through that county is a major tourism draw because it was the river, made out to be the Amazon. in the James Bond Moonraker movie.
When I visited islands along the Croatia coast I discovered Lucia was revered there along the coasts, dotted with shoreline chapels dedicated to St, Lucia. This is due to stories similar to the Florida story.
I have read of different traditions celebrated in Sweden and, of course, on St. Lucia Island. These tell of St. Lucia being a visionary spirit who introduces women to having visions of their future husbands.
On December 13th, gingerbread biscuits (cookies) are served to women and one has a ring within. The one who chooses the biscuit with the ring will be wed within the year.
Lucy's Gingerbread women - and recipe - Lucian Piparkakut - St. Lucy's Gingerbread
In Sweden and on St. Lucia Island in the Caribbean, St. Lucia has a tradition of being a visionary who's spirit can introduce women to their future husbands.. On December 13th, Lucian Piperkakuts gingerbreads, are served to women and one has a ring within. The woman who chooses the gingerbread with the ring will be wed within the year. Sorry, I do not know what that means if a married woman chooses the prize gingerbread.
Prep Time: 30 to 40 mins
Total Time: split over 2 days
Serves: 12 to 24 cookies
- 1 lb or 2.5 cups of 450 grams flour
- 4 oz or 100 g of butter
- 7 fl. oz or 0.75 cup or 200 ml of good honey
- maple syrup or molasses or mix of them
- 1 Â½tsp cinnamon
- Â½tsp clove or chinese five spice
- Â½tsp ginger or a little grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp ground dried seville orange peel (optional
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 egg
- preferably small or medium
- Put the butter, syrup, sugar and spices in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Take off the heat and let the mixture cool down a bit, gently whisking as it cools.
- Beat in the egg when cool so it does not cook the egg.
- In a mixing bowl, mix the baking soda in the flour
- Add to the butter and egg mixture slowly.
- Mix in with your hands as you pour
- You should end up with a slightly crumbly dough at this stage,
- a bit like a sticky crumble dough.
- Place the bowl of dough into an airtight container
- or wrapped tightly in cling film
- and leave until the next day, ideally 24 hours.
- It will stay in the fridge ok for 3 days.
- If you want to make this dough well ahead of time it does freeze too.
- Do not forget to include the secret ring, if you choose that tradition
- To make your gingerbread ...
- Take dough from refrigerator. It must be cold
- Roll out the dough quite thin, but not too thin if a ring is included
- Cut out cookies, ideally with star and moon shaped cutters.
- If the dough gets warm it gets sticky and hard to work with
- so if this happens put it back in the fridge to cool again.
- One prevention is to only take half of the dough from the fridge at a time.
- Preheat oven to 200 C or 400 F
- Bake the gingerbread cookies on a high shelf for 5-6 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool down completely before moving and decorating.
- Note these cookies are more full of Christmas spices than ginger.
- They can take any sort of decorating you desire.
- If you want very crispy cookies instead of gingerbread leave out the baking soda.
- The optional dried orange peel is great if you have a dehydrator
- or use a gentle oven to dry and keep an eye on it.
Was Lucy named after a Celtic Wise Woman?
When I hear and read of stories and traditions of Lucy and Lucia I find myself relating to the Irish stories of St. Lasiar who was named in the image of a little known ancient Celtic "goddess", or wise teacher, Lasir of Ireland.
Lasiar, like other women saints such as Attracta, Grainne and especially Brighid, were names adopted by Abbesses leading monastic "cities".
It is thought they took on the names of these wise women to sustain their descended legacies. Unfortunately, when the Catholic church blessed them as being "saints" the reasons explaining their sainthoods became very distorted
Lasiar was apparently sainted for her ability to heal the blind. Maybe this was true of the Abbess Lasiar who was daughter of Abbot Ronan of Kilronan, church of Ronan, founder of Kilronan monastic city. Within this monastic cille is a sacred well that is today called
St. Lasiar's Well.
I find an amusing paradox here because Turlough O'Carolan, the blind composer harper,
is buried across from the well said to be of waters to heal the blind.
Locals tall of the legend of Lasiar not being the healer of the blind but a healer who helped people to see clearer, meaning more of a release from mental anguish. Some people do actually lay and meditate under a mass table there to help them clear concerns and anguish and bring light to their minds.
I have learned from local people who look closer into this sort of thing, and tell good yarns, that Lasiar, or Lasir, helped certain people to see clearer with a totally different intent in mind.
It is said that Lasir's sacred well was where she would guide women to look in the water, before Beltaine celebrations, to see an advance vision of the man the women would meet and become partnered with over Beltaine.
One local storyteller even suggested to me that Lasir taught women the "crafts" of being a wife, the craft of being keeper of the fire, and this included smithing.
Lasir would smith a silver ring for her courting woman to hand to the man she saw in the well, when she meets him in the Beltaine circles. She would ask him to put it on her finger if his intentions are sincere. Was this the origin of the silver engagement ring?
Nine months later, after the Beltaine mating, if the couple bore a healthy child a gold ring was not exchanged but the wife, the Cailleach, the goddess on earth, would hand her mate a bronze sword that she would have cast on her fire.
As for her husband? After being presented with and accepting the sword from her fire it was his commitment to always return fuel to her to keep her fire kindled
- and I think that can be visioned and interpreted in different ways.
Lucy and Luck at Yuletide
I feel sure that some of the more ancient Lasir's traditions have merged with Lucia's.
The Lucia date of December 13th that should be 21st I always feel is suspect.
Lucia's Day in December is also speculated to have been moved to December to add validity to the connection of Joseph and Mary to partner together for the birth of Jesus, Lucia's December 13th is 12 days before Christmas Day.
The story is told that it was Mary who approached Joseph to join her. This was after a vision from an angel. To me, this is a telling a similar tale to the visions that Lasir's women had that caused them to approach men in Erin, if they matched theie visions..
A loose end for me is also the tradition of the silver sixpence being in a Christmas pudding on Christmas Day. The person who has the sixpence in his or her portion of Christmas pud will have luck for a year.
The Christmas pud was once a Yule dessert and it contained a ring???.
A similar pudding is said to have once been a Samhain celebration dessert, and Samhain is at the opposite polarity to Beltaine. The Samhain pudding was prepared after first harvest of Lunasa and stored for eating at Samhain.
These ancient desserts for Samhain, and later for Yule, were made with a combination of meat, grains and berries and not just the fruit and suet pudding it is today
Also, I wonder if the words Lucy and Luck are related?
Are Lass and Lassie connected?
Speculation again, but many men call women who are attracted or connected to them as "lass". Is this because these women came to the men after visions of Lasir?
I find the Lassie the dog movies and adventures fascinating. Lassie, in those movies, is often the bringer of light, survival and sometimes guiding the blind,
maybe like Abbess St. Lasiar once did?
While I ponder all these things, I think I will go off and bake some
ginger cookies and Lucy Cats buns.
other Lenses in this series ...
- Tales Of Ye Ol' Yule Log
we cruise around searching for the origins of the Yule Log tradition,
- Tales Of Ye Ol' Christmas Trees
the stories and myths of festive trees and decorations
- Which Christmas Tree is for you
a review of 22 different types of Christmas trees with pics, benefits, aromas and care tips
- Mince Pies For Yule
Mince Pies for Yule, legends, origins, recipes including vegan
- Plum Pudding for Yule
Christmas Pudding, lesser known as plum pudding today, spread from English tradition into the world.
- Black Bun for Hogmanay
No celebration of Hogmanay and days of First Footin' would be complete without a Black Bun.
- 10 Steps To A Green Christmas
10 choices for enjoying Yule, Christmas, and the eco and healthy green well being of our planet.
other portals from Celtic Ways
- 12 Labyrinth Journeys
about labyrinths and 12 different things you do when visit and use a labyrinth.
- Harps Around Ireland
a showcase of harpers, harper bards, venues, events, harp makers and teachers in Ireland
- Ogma's Tale Of The Trees
a tale of the creation of the celtic Ogham symbols and language
- Yule Traditions
myths, folklore and stories of Yule, plus activities and recipes