Viva Santa Lucia

December 14, 2010


Saint Lucia Festival, Belpasso, Sicily

Another amazing Sicilian festival! Elaborate moving displays which have been made by townspeople since the 1600s, music, festive lights, flags, church bells, fireworks, and eyes, lots of eyes all in honor of the patron saint of light. I was familiar with St. Lucia celebrations (especially the Swedish version), but prior to moving to Sicily I had no idea she was Sicilian. Siracusa is her birthplace and I am told their festival is worth seeing (aiming for it next year), but I was drawn to Belpasso because of the carri. They call them floats or chariots but they don't move like in a parade. They are installed the along the street and the crowd moves together to view each one as it is lit up and moved by hand.

I am so glad we went. I really love the Saints' feast days here in Sicily. I am always moved by the intense devotion and the long standing traditions. In our modern world of instant replay, evidence-based research, and Facebook, I find it comforting to stand in a crowd of Sicilians praying and honoring their town's saint. They don't watch parades on tv, demand proof of the story, or build relationships through social networking; instead, they work together all year to prepare for the festival and then they stand together on a dark, cold night and sing. It is truly a special faith experience. If you live in Sicily and you have not attended a feast day celebration, you must do it at least once before leaving.  

I also love these celebrations because I love the stories of the Saints. I always have. I have vivid memories, sometimes even nightmares, about the stories of the Saints that I studied in school (twelve years of Catholic schooling). It is hard to beat the drama, the intrigue, the heroism, and the related miracles. And of course, St. Lucia has special meaning for me since she is my name saint. We didn't get a chance to try any of the foods mentioned here (I think they are more prevalent at the Siracusa celebration), but I still found the information very interesting. So as a continuation from my last post regarding the complicated nature of December, here's one more layer:  my Jewish children have a mother with Catholic roots who is still devoted to the Saints and revels in the Sicilian feast days.
Francesca said...

I'm also fascinated by hagiographies. Buon onomastico, Lucia!

Laurie said...

So, so, so jealous. That looks, and sounds AMAZING. And for the record - reveling in devotion of any kind at all is a pretty good life skill. :)

likeschocolate said...

I love seeing Sicily through your eyes.

Karen said...

Ah but they do watch parades on TV! Just ask Bina!! And then tune in to Catania's St. Agata parade in Feb ;) -- Thanks for bringing back such sweet memories!

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

Karen...that's funny that you mention it because last year I do remember Bina telling us she prefers to stay home and watch St. Agata on TV...but I can't imagine doing that. I am already contemplating getting a hotel room in the center of the city so I can see those nuns sing at dawn.

Nancy said...

Thank you so much for sharing this--as a child we celebrated St. Lucia day because we were living in Sweden--I was always fascinated by their celebration of an Italian (Sicilian!) saint. Particularly since Sweden's predominant religion (at least it used to be) is Lutheran. I was told Italians didn't celebrate St. Lucia but clearly that's not the case (or perhaps it's more localized?).

I'm sure that was an incredible experience--the parade of float watchers sounds so unique.

Last, I was not raised Catholic (but, my husband is and we are raising our kids Catholic). So instead of lives of the Saints, I've always been curious about Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Often mentioned in the Anne of Green Gables Books, it mainly focuses on Protestant martyrs (with I think a few early church saints thrown in). No doubt the stuff of nightmares as well!

And very last, I don't see our relationship as a mixed-faith marriage, but my many Catholic friends do. Which is interesting. It is a challenge to see my kids taught various ideas that were not part of our faith growing up. I do share my views without being disrespectful. It is a tightrope, although not quite the one it is for you.

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

Nancy, it must have been so interesting to have spent that time in Sweden as a child. And how surprising that they would think the Sicilians don't celebrate St. Lucia. Belpasso and Siracusa seem to be the towns with special events but St. Lucia is well-known throughout the island and families who don't attned the festivals will still eat the special wheat dish associated with the holiday. Thanks also for sharing in regards to your own faith experiences as a child and as a parent.

Camels & Chocolate said...

My husband was in the U.S. Navy and based outside Catania for three years. It's been a decade now and he still talks about it nearly daily...clearly it's time we make a return visit (and first trip for me)!

sonja said...

I went to 12 years of Catholic school too, and love my childhood stories of the saints. Love your story.

Jackie said...

Beautiful and poignant. I don't know near enough about the saints and I think I'd like to start my education in Sicily. Hee.

Kristy said...

Amazing story and great pictures!

Latest Instagrams

© Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish. Design by FCD.