Sanca Lucia or Lucia of Syracuse's story can be found in in the Acts of the Martyrs. Several sources attest that Saint Lucy was the child of rich parents around 283 AD in Syracuse. Her father was of Roman origin and her mother Greek (Her mother's name was Eutychia, a common Greek name). When she was only five years old, her father died suddenly and her mother began to suffer from a bleeding disease of some kind. Soon after Saint Lucy consecrated herself to God as a Virgin and planned to distribute her dowry to the poor of her area. Her mother, however, according to the story did not realize her daughter had consecrated her virginity and arranged a marriage to a pagan so that her daughter would not be left alone with no one to protect her.
Eutychia and Saint Lucy visited the shrine of Saint Agatha one year and in a dream while staying there Saint Lucy had a vision of Saint Agatha telling her that she would become the glory of Syracuse and her mother would soon be cured of her disease. These were to come to pass because of Saint Lucy's great faith and she immediately told her mother of this vision. She told her mother to immediately begin giving away the family's wealth to the poor, saying:
"...whatever you give away at death for the Lord's sake you give because you cannot take it with you. Give now to the true Savior, while you are healthy, whatever you intended to give away at your death."
When news reached her betrothed that the family's wealth was being given away, he went to Paschasius (then Govenor of Syracuse). Paschasius ordered that Saint Lucy immediately burn sacrifices to the Emperor's image; she refused totally to give sacrifice to anyone but God. Immediately the governor ordered she be defiled in a brothel for her refusal. When the guards came to get her, a miracle happened - they could not move her, even when she was tied to oxen that pulled with all their might. In rage, the governor ordered she be burned and so the guards placed bundles of wood at her feet and lit them - the flames apparently did not damage to Saint Lucy.
Saint Lucy foretold the punishment of Paschasius and that Diocletian would soon reign no more and the Emperor Maximian would die soon. In anger, Paschasius had the guards remove her eyes (in another story, she removed her eyes herself in order to discourage a pagan suitor). The guards thrust swords into her throat, killing her. It is said that when she was buried, both of her eyes miraculously reappeared.
As her name shares a root with the Latin word for light, many traditions incorporate symbolic meanings of Saint Lucy being the bearer of light in the darkness of winter (her feast day is set for December 13th). Due to the story with her eyes, she is often also venerated as the Patron Saint of the Blind. The Island of Saint Lucia is also named after her.
Saint Lucy's Day
Saint Lucy's Day is traditionally celebrated on Devember 13th, linking the root of her name (Lux) with the Winter Solstice and the beginning of days growing longer.
In Sicily she is celebrated as the Patron Saint of the city and a silver statue containing Saint Lucy's relics is paraded throughout the streets of the town with the procession ending at the Cathedral of Syracuse. A tradition of eating whole grains instead of bread (usually a dish of boiled wheat berries mixed with ricotta and honey called a cuccia) is eaten to honor a legend that a fierce famine ended on her feast day when ships of grain arrived.
In North-Eastern Italy, Saint Lucy is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad children on the night before her Feast day, arriving on a donkey and her escort Castaldo. Children are to leave out coffee for Saint Lucia, carrots for the donkey, and glasses of wine for Castaldo.
In Sweden, Saint Lucy's Day (though not an official public holiday) is extremely popular. University students often gather friends have formal dinner parties on her feast day as it generally is the last day of togetherness before the winter break. In 1927, a Stockholm newspaper began a tradition of electing an official Lucy for the year - today most Swedish cities follow the tradition, electing a Lucy. Gingernut cookies (pepparkakor) are handed out and the Lucy procession in Ericsson Globe in Stockholm holds the world record as the largest in the world. A special baked bun known as a Lussekatt (or Saint Lucy bun) made with saffron is also popular to eat on her feast day.
In Denmark, the Day of Lucy (luciadag) was celebrated for the first time on December 13th, 1944 as an attempt to bring light in the time of darkness, a passive protest against the German occupation during WW2. The day is now traditionally celebrated in the Churches rather than the public at large with a Danish song Sankta Lucia being sung -
"Nu bæres lyset frem | stolt på din krone. | Rundt om i hus og hjem | sangen skal tone." ("The light's carried forward | proudly on your crown. | Around in house and home | The song shall sound now.")
In Norway, the tradition is much more secular and is observed in schools and kindergartens with school children forming processions through the hallways of the school carrying candles and handing out lussekatt buns. One child is chosen to be Lucia in the procession, a great honor for parents.