Imagine this. It’s very cold, dark, and all around you things are in such a depressing state of mind that you’re ready to climb the walls out of sheer madness. Hej, top up my mug of glögg, won’t you? No wonder the Swedes were more than obliged to welcome and adopt a christian saint into their culture! The ‘luc’ in Lucia comes from the Latin lux, or light, and during those bone-chilling nordic winter nights – brrrrrrr – the anticipation of light was surely something to look forward to.
December 13th is the feast day of Santa Lucia and according to those outdated calenders several millennia ago, was the longest night of the year (the winter solstice). Celebrated with much festivity in Sweden, and on a reverent scale in Syracruse, Sicily (where Lucia was born), Saint Lucy’s Day is for kids. Like San Nicolò of last week, then again on Christmas, and finally La Befana on the eve of the Epiphany, good boys and girls get all the gifts. In the province of Milan where MotH grew up (that’s Man Of The House if you just tuned in), la Arriva, Notte, or Festa di Santa Lucia was not a tradition. However, in pocket areas of Bergamo, Brescia, Parma, Piacenza, and Alessandria provinces, just to name a few, the patron saint of the blind is alive and well. Arriving on the scene with her trusted donkey, she brings sweet treats for children.
Celebrating Santa Lucia
Last night in Milan on the eve of Santa Lucia, a swedish chorus sang in one of the city’s main squares. Lussebulle (saffron rolls), glögg, and pepparkakor (ginger thins) can be bought at IKEA, and if you are feeling really crafty, you can MacGyver your own crown of candles. Warning: melted wax on hair. So not fun!
In Italy, a host of celebrations begin on the the evening before and on the day (13th) itself, and the following are just two I took note of. We’re observing the date italo-swedish style with saffron buns, mulled wine, smoked salmon, cream cheese and black bread, and a simple dish of creamy radicchio risotto (red leaf chicory). We might even get a few laughs out of The Ref (check the candle-wreaths in the last photo).