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Ancient traditions characterize the end-of-year festivities, starting with Saint Lucy recurrence, which is celebrated on 13 December. Many reenactments take place particularly in Sicily and in the area from Lombardy to Trentino and Veneto, in the territory of the ancient Republic of Venice. The recurrence is expected above all by the children, eager to receive the gifts that the saint delivers during the night. In many countries is repeated the ...

characteristic tradition of the older boys who walk the streets ringing a bell to remind the children to go to sleep early: if the saint saw them awake, she would throw sand into their eyes and blind them, without giving them any gift. To support the long journey of Saint Lucy that with a donkey spins to deliver the gifts, it is also used to leave cookies, oranges, half a glass of red wine and hay for the donkey. When the children wake up, the find, according to their behavior, all or part of the gifts they had requested. The passage of Saint Lucy is also evident because in a dish they find candies and chocolate coins with orange peels and the remains of cookies consumed by the saint.
In Syracuse and in other Sicilian cities the tradition of consuming, on the day of Saint Lucy, boiled corn in memory of the miraculous arrival of a ship loaded with wheat during the severe famine of 1646 is transmitted. The cult of Saint Lucy and the commemorations extend beyond the national borders: just think of the feast of Saint Lucy in Sweden, where the girls with a long white dress, a red band tied to the waist and a crown of candles on their heads celebrating the Feast of Light.
The deep bond with Saint Lucia of the regions of north-east Italy is given by the presence of the body of the saint in Venice. After the conquest of Sicily by the Arabs, the body of the Syracusan martyr was transferred from the Byzantines to Constantinople; to conquer the city, the Venetians took possession of the relics and took them to Venice, where they are still in the Church of St. Jeremiah.
Saint Lucy was born in Syracuse in 283 and died a martyr when she was only 21 years old during the persecution of Diocletian. Its existence is testified by ancient sources, such as the Greek inscription of the late fourth century discovered in the catacomb of Saint John in Syracuse. In the Sicilian city there is the primitive tomb (the "loculus"), on which a church was built a few years after the martyrdom, rebuilt in the seventeenth century. The
Papadopulo Code reports the acts of the martyrdom of Saint Lucy and informs us that it was born in a rich Syracusan family and had converted after a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Agatha to implore the healing of the seriously ill mother. She decided to dedicate herself to God and began to distribute all her goods to the poor. This choice found firm opposition from an aspiring spouse, who denounced her as a Christian. At the trial, Lucy proudly supported her faith and was subjected to torture and then beheaded; some sources speak of killing by “jugulatio”, that means she was pierced with a dagger to the throat, and with reference to this tradition in some images there is a dagger.
The life and martyrdom of Saint Lucy are historical, but it is considered a legend the story linked to the eyes, which appears in many depictions: Saint Lucy is the protector of sight because its name derives from the Latin “lux”, light.
From literature to art, the saint is mentioned by many authors in countless works. Dante Alighieri in the
Convivio speaks of Saint Lucy attributing to her the healing of the alteration of sight caused by prolonged readings. In the Divine Comedy we speak about it in Hell Canto II, when Our Lady sends her to Beatrice to talk about the loss of Dante; in Purgatory Canto IX, she introduces herself to Dante who sleeps, to facilitate him on his journey; in Paradise Canto XXXII Lucy sees Dante in the first circle of the Empyrean. (Felice d’Adamo)

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