u 4 Barbara

u 6 Nicola

u 8 Maria

u 13 Lucia

e lu 25 lu messia


The above holy-card is of St. Lucy; I remember it from when I was a kid back in Calabria.
Believe it or not, the holy-card, with the eyes in a dish – bizarre as that seems – is the sanitized version of the legend of St. Lucy. The narrative, of Lucia of Siracusa, is full of horror and carnage. (BTW, the palm is there to symbolize martyrdom.)

  • According to legend, before she died, Lucia foretold the death and punishment of the Roman rulers in Sicily. This so angered the Roman governor that he ordered the guards to remove her eyes. Another version has Lucia taking her own eyes out in order to discourage a persistent suitor who admired them. When her body was prepared for burial in the family mausoleum it was discovered that her eyes had been miraculously restored. This is one of the reasons that Lucy is the patron saint of those with eye illnesses.

The rhyme on the right of the image, with its Calabrese definite articles u and lu, was something we all learned in order to remember the important feast-days preceding Christmas. I associate the rhyme with my grandmother, remembering that it was she who I went to when I forgot one of the lines.

December 4 is the feast of St. Barbara.
December 6 is the feast of St. Nicolas.
December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
December 13 is the feast of St. Lucy.
And December 25 is the feast of The Messiah.

  • The Sweeds’ traditions around the feast of St. Lucy include sweet buns, called Lussebullar – the featured image. The buns are supposed to represent the eyes that are on the plate in the holy-card.
  • In parts of Northern Italy, St. Lucy is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones the night between 12 and 13 December. According to tradition, she arrives in the company of a donkey and her escort, Castaldo. Children are asked to leave some coffee for Lucia, a carrot for the donkey and a glass of wine for Castaldo. They must not watch Santa Lucia delivering these gifts, or she will throw ashes in their eyes, temporarily blinding them.
  • And on a more local level, my cousin often exclaims, “Santa Lucia, chi citruli“; roughly translates to – Oh my god, what assholes.