Celebration of Saint Lucia on December 13


Photo credit: flickr/Mr.TinMD

An honorary Saint Lucia surrounded by children dressed in white gowns.

Marta Bourget, Staff Writer

December 13 is the longest night of the year, but it isn’t so dark with a woman adorning a lit wreath lighting the way.
Saint Lucia, also known as Saint Lucy, was a Christian martyr born in Italy around 280 AD. She devoted herself and pledged her virginity to God. She was known to bring food to persecuted Christians in Roman catacombs, lighting the way with a lit wreath crown.
In 304 AD an angry pagan suitor reported her to the Roman authorities. They attempted and failed to force her into prostitution and they resolved to burn her to death. This too was unsuccessful so they stabbed her in the throat with a knife.
In Northern Europe, specifically Sweden, Norway and Finland they celebrate this saint using many customs.


The shortest day of the year was thought to be dangerous, so many would stay awake and food helps with tiredness so that translated into a feast on Saint Lucia’s Day.
Schools and towns will elect a girl to play the role of Saint Lucia, she dresses in a white gown, red sash and wreath headdress with candles on it. Boys and girls dress up as well, as star boys, gingerbread men or Christmas elves. Then a parade is typically held with the honorary Saint Lucia leading the way.
Daughters, typically the oldest, will also dress as Saint Lucia for their families. Then the daughter will serve the family bread, coffee and other pastries.

Lussekatter, also known as saffron buns, are a traditional treat for Saint Lucia’s Day celebrations. (Photo credit: flickr/Erik Forsberg)

Lussekatter, also known as saffron bread, is a common pastry made for Saint Lucia’s day. They are buttered rolls adorning raisins. Lussekatter, translating to Lucia cats, are named after their cat tail shape. They are one of the treats families eat and give to visitors on Saint Lucia’s day.

Modern Adjustments

A holiday so deeply rooted in ancient tradition doesn’t always fit modern lifestyles. Accommodations such as vegan/vegetarian alternatives have been made.
Even the act of choosing an honorary Saint Lucia has been changed. When the Saint Lucia was elected by the town or school, this could be easily turned into a popularity or beauty contest. Now most places randomly select a Saint Lucia, with some schools choosing more than one girl for the honor.

People in the States may not be accustomed to wreath crowns and cat tail pastries, but the shortest day of the year is a time for celebration in many European countries. In fact, every year Saint Lucia’s Day is celebrated by more and more people, furthering the morals of Saint Lucia and marking the beginning of Christmas celebrations.