Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 14 June |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Francisa de Paula de Jesus Isabel
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

How St. Lucy became a light in Scandinavia


Claudia Grunder | CC BY SA 3.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 12/13/17

The martyr who died in Italy became the most popular saint of the North.

During the 3rd century a girl named Lucy (Lucia in Latin) was born to noble parents. At an early age Lucy dedicated her virginity to Christ, but her mother was not aware of it and arranged to have her married.

Lucy refused on account of her private vow and the man she was supposed to marry turned her in on account of being a Christian. This led to a gruesome martyrdom, where her eyes were gouged out prior to being killed. She died in Sicily, but her fame soon spread throughout Europe. When Christian missionaries reached Scandinavia they brought the story of St. Lucy with them and her life and death fascinated the local population.

Her name is derived from the Latin word lux, meaning “light,” and there was another story from her life that said she wore a crown of candles to help her see in the Christian catacombs.

Lucy’s connection to light resonated with the Scandinavian people who celebrated the Winter Solstice (the darkest day of the year) near the time of her feast day, December 13. She was a light in a dark place and her faithful example enlightened their hearts and minds for many centuries after.

Many ancient songs from Sweden highlight this symbolism, such as this one.

The night treads heavily
around yards and dwellings
In places unreached by sun,
the shadows brood
Into our dark house she comes,
bearing lighted candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

From the intense devotion surrounding St. Lucy sprang the many traditions of St. Lucy’s Day. In various Scandinavian countries there developed Lussibrud, a tradition where the oldest daughter in the family wears a white dress and red sash with a crown of candles on top of her head. She wakes the family on December 13 and serves them various sweets.

St. Lucy’s Day is a great feast of preparation for Christmas, one that signals the coming of the light of Christ on Christmas day.

Read more:
Saints and dragons: The beauty of Scandinavian churches

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Philip Kosloski
Miracle prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Lucandrea Massaro
This 3D “carbon copy” of Jesus was created using the ...
Philip Kosloski
Offer your heart to Jesus with this prayer
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
The short prayer Pope Francis says every night
Philip Kosloski
5 Things to know about the Sacred Heart feast
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.