If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, watch the weather on December 13, the Feast of St. Lucia, or Lucy, of Syracuse, Sicily. According to traditional lore, sunny weather on this day foretells snow on Christmas:
If St. Lucy’s day be bright, Christmas day will be dark with snow;
but if the snow falls on St. Lucy, Christmas will be clear and sunny.
St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind, those with eye afflictions or throat infections, and of her native city, Syracuse. She was a virgin and a martyr, and her story is particularly sad.
A Dark Tale
Born to a wealthy Roman father and Greek mother during Third Century A.D., Lucy converted to Christianity as a young woman and became determined to spend the rest of her life in service to God. Unfortunately, she had already been betrothed to a man she did not wish to marry. She tried to dissuade her would-be husband from marrying her by giving her dowry as an alms offering to the poor. When that didn’t work, she simply refused to marry him.
Some legends say that, when the man insisted that he was too beguiled by her beautiful eyes to resist her, she plucked them out and sent them to him, only to have her vision restored by God. For this reason, she is often portrayed in art holding a tray bearing two eyes.
Despite such drastic measures, Lucy’s betrothed would not be cast aside so easily. After three years of rejection from her, he went before the governor of Sicily and denounced Lucy as a Christian, a crime in the Roman Empire at that time. The governor sentenced Lucy to spend the rest of her days in a brothel, but when his guards tried to take her away, they were unable move her, even with a team of oxen. Undeterred, the governor ordered her to be burned alive. He had her surrounded by bundles of wood, but every time the wood was lit, it miraculously went out. Eventually, her persecutors ended her life by stabbing her in the throat with a spear.
A Dark Day
So what does this gruesome story have to do with Christmas? St. Lucy’s feast is December 13. Prior to the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, this date coincided with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the start of longer days to come. That, and the part of her story where she regains her sight, have caused her feast day to be associated with light. In fact, her name, Lucia, means “light” in Latin. In Medieval Europe, many recited this rhyme during the solstice:
Lucy light, Lucy light,
Shortest day and longest night.
During the long night of St. Lucy’s Day, revelers fought the darkness with bonfires, torchlight processions, and all-night celebrations.
In her native Sicily, as well as in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and areas of the United States with large Scandinavian concentrations, Lucy’s feast day remains an important part of the holiday season.
In Swedish Saint Lucia festivities, it is traditional for the eldest daughter of the household to dress as Lucy, wearing a white gown with a red sash, and a wreath of candles on her head. The “Lucy Bride” serves coffee and sweets, especially St. Lucia buns, rich yeast-leavened sweet buns flavored with saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, and currants.
The association of a white Christmas with clear weather during the feast of St. Lucy isn’t the only weather lore surrounding the day. Another legend claims that the weather on each of the twelve days from St. Lucy to Christmas Eve foretells the weather for the twelve months of the coming year.
So, if you want to know what the weather will be during the coming year, or at least on Christmas day, be sure to pay attention on December 13th!