St. Lucia’s Day, a holiday celebrated in Scandinavia on December 13th, commemorates the girl who brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome many centuries ago. The day used to coincide with the shortest day of the year, and has since become a festival of lights. Today, it is seen as a day to ring in the Christmas season over food and celebration. This is the legend of the real Lucia behind the holiday.
While many details about St. Lucia’s life are unknown, the legend surrounding her has continued to play a significant role in Scandinavian (and Italian) culture. After converting to Christianity, Lucia refused to renounce her virginity in marriage, prompting the man she was meant to marry to denounce her to Roman authorities. She refused to renounce her Christian faith even under torture, and, despite repeated attempts to execute her by burning and by beheading, she was only able to die after she was given Christian sacrament.
In Nordic countries today, a young girl is elected every year to portray St. Lucia, and she wears a white dress with a red sash and wreath of candles around her head.