Santa LuciaGrowing up in an Italian South Philly home, one of our favorite things to do was celebrate feast days. And we didn’t care if they were Catholic, Episcopalian, Marionite, Greek Orthodox, or Armenian as long as they had great food and were lots of fun. One I hold dear to my heart is St. Lucy’s Feast Day; it’s my mom’s namesake.

According to Wikipedia, St. Lucy’s origins are from Sweden and Norway, but celebrated in other countries, like Italy and celebrated on December 13th. St. Lucia is the Patron Saint of Siracusa (Sicily), where she was born. Lucia is from Lucina which means light and explains why she is known as the Saint of Light; she is also the patron saint of the blind and eye disease.

In Philadelphia, a beautiful pageant is held at Old Swedes’ Church. You can watch this heartwarming procession led by a girl wearing a white gown and crown of lit candles on her head. She sings the traditional Neapolitan song “Santa Lucia” followed by distribution of sweets to the congregation.

The traditional sweets eaten on St. Lucy’s Day are buns called Lussekatt, they are made with yeast, saffron, and cardamom, then decorated with two raisins to represent St. Lucy’s eyes; traditionally served by the eldest daughter of the household. In Palermo, Sicily Cuccia is served, a dessert made of whole wheat berries cooked in water and then mixed with sweetened ricotta.

The festivities this year will be celebrated from December 9-11 at Old Swedes’ Church; you can experience Lucia Fest for yourself.

Would you like to see St. Lucia’s Church in Siracusa, Sicily, maybe taste and learn more about Sicilian pastries? Book your spot on our overseas trip to Sicily planned for departure on April 20, 2012.