St. Lucia Day: An Easy Family Christmas Tradition
Tradition. Family. Food. All key ingredients this time of year as we celebrate the holidays. The word holiday means ‘holy day’ and means to set apart and make special. St. Lucia Day is a day set apart during Advent to honor the patron saint of light.
Our family enjoys learning about other cultures and different holiday traditions from around the world. We love to celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. And, each year we choose a different country to inspire our Christmas Eve dinner.
As we cook the feast for family, and often friends, we learn as much as we can about Christmas traditions from around the world. Aromas, tastes, and stories from Italy to New Orleans have delighted all generations gathered around our table over the years.
For our family, the point of learning about other traditions isn’t to add more ‘to do’ in an overstuffed season. It’s just the opposite. Rather, it’s a way for our family to pause from the hustle and bustle during this expectant, hope-filled season and remember the holy in holiday.
The History of St. Lucia Day
St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13th. Lucia (pronounced Lu-chée-a in Italian and Lu-sée-a in Swedish) is the patron saint of light in Sweden today is celebrated throughout Europe. Born in Italy in the third century AD to a noble Greek family, Lucia was brought up a in a time of severe persecution for those of the Christian faith. Devastated by plans for an arranged marriage to a pagan man, Lucia renounced the wedding and chose to dedicate her life to God and give her share of the family fortune—her dowry—to the poor. Her behavior was viewed as so strange she was thought to be possessed with evil spirits. Lucia steadfastly clung to her faith and was martyred on December 13, 304.
In Sweden, St. Lucia Day is one of the most cherished Advent celebrations. Early in the morning on Dec. 13th the eldest daughter (with help from her mother, if she needs) portrays Lucia. Dressed in white with a crown of lighted candles on her head, she awakens the rest of the family with a tray of freshly baked bread, cookies, pastries, coffee, and hot chocolate. As she serves the sweet treats, she reminds her family the reason we celebrate Christmas is the Light of the World, Jesus.
Books For All Ages About St. Lucia
Every year we pull out these favorite books to read about St. Lucia during Advent.
Lucia, Saint of Light, by Katherine Bolger Hyde
Kirsten’s Surprise, An American Girl Story, by Janet Shaw
Celebrating the Christian Year, by Martha Zimmerman
Our oldest daughter loves making these traditional Christmas cookies. I have a haunch she’ll be making them again to share with the family on St. Lucia Day.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 cups flour
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup pecans, finely ground
- Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
- Add the egg yolk and vanilla. Continue to beat until well combined.
- Add the flour, cinnamon and salt. Beat until combined.
- Roll approximately a tablespoon of dough with the palm of your hands.
- Press to flatten on a greased cookie sheet.
- Brush each flattened cookie with egg white and sprinkle with pecans.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown.
What are your favorite Christmas traditions?