Words by Michelle Fabio

From 13-20 December, the city of Siracusa in Sicily celebrates "La Festa di Santa Lucia," the Feast of Saint Lucy, the patron saint of the blind. You may have seen Santa Lucia in paintings--she's the one holding out a plate with two eyeballs on it. This is because one legend about her says that Diocletian had her eyeballs put out to torture her, but God restored her eyes and eyesight.

Although her name comes from the Latin "lux" meaning "light," Santa Lucia's history is rather shrouded in mystery. We know for sure that the young girl lived in Syracuse in the early fourth century, devoted her life to God, and was killed during Diocletian's reign of terror over Christians, but the rest of the story is speculation.

As one version of the tale goes, when Santa Lucia rejected a potential husband, he reported her to Diocletian and was eventually killed, possibly by stabbing. When Diocletian attempted to put Santa Lucia into prostitution, guards found her completely stiff and unmovable, and they eventually killed her.

Now the city of Santa Lucia's birth honours her each year with a week-long celebration that sees her statue arrive in the port, complete with the sounding of the ship's horn, a procession through town on the shoulders of villagers, and a spectacular fireworks display:

Various other cities throughout Italy and even Lutherans in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway also celebrate Santa Lucia, one of the few saints to hold such an honour.

For more information on Santa Lucia (in Italian), see Santa Lucia al Sepolcro.