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On 13 December, Italians celebrate Santa Lucia, a very important feast in the North as well as in Sicily. The name Lucia comes from Latin and means Lux (light): it dates back to the pagan celebration of winter solstice before the calendar reform by Pope Gregory XIII. The Gregorian calendar, once it removed ten day gap accumulated over more than 10 centuries, moved the solstice on December either 21 or 22, however the feast of Santa Lucia remained on the 13th.
Lucia was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283. Her father was of Roman origin, but died when she was five years old. Like many of the early martyrs, Lucy had given her virginity to God, and she hoped to distribute her dowry to the poor. However, Eutychia, not knowing of Lucy's promise and suffering from a bleeding disorder feared for Lucy's future. She arranged Lucy's marriage to a young man of a wealthy pagan family. Lucia is always painted carrying her eyes outside of their appointed place because she desired to be a bride of Christ so ardently that she ripped out her eyes so that a man could never see their beauty and fall in love with him. Her mother was so sick that the young girl travelled with her mother to the grave of holy Agatha to pray, and during her session of prayer, Lucia saw in a vision that she was to become the patron saint of Syracuse. Her mother got instantly well.
The young Lucia was martyred on this day in 304 during the persecution of Diocletian: her story came to us in two versions by the Latin and Greek memories. Latin memories say that the saint was stabbed in the throat; whereas for the Greeks she has been beheaded. The feast is a big day for people in Syracuse where, over night, children wait to hear the sound of a donkey’s hooves that pull the traditional wagon full of gifts.