“Ex Tenebris Lux” or “Out of Darkness, Light” was St. Lucia’s motto. Lucia or Lucy means light and bears the same root as “lucid” which suggests clear radiance. St. Lucia (283-304) is patron saint of the blind and those with eye trouble, as well as patron saint of Syracuse, Sicily where she was born.
She was martyred after an angel was said to visit her in a dream when she prayed at a shrine for her mother who was ill. As a result, Lucia became a devout Christian and refused to marry. Her husband-to-be, who was a pagan, reported her to the Romans. The Church still says that a thousand Roman men and fifty oxen tried to drag her to a brothel, but couldn’t move her. It is said they set her on fire, but she wouldn’t burn. Then a soldier poked her in the eyes with a fork, but legend says they were restored. It is even reported that she was impaled in the throat, but didn’t die until she received the sacrament of Christ.
The significance of her martyrdom was integrated into an existing Scandinavian festival celebrating the winter solstice and preventing the mischievous activity of witches and evil spirits. Lucia still represents the rebirth of light. In Sweden, Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, as well as Italy and parts of Germany, a young girl is chosen at this time to portray Lucia and wear a white gown and a crown of burning candles.
The celebration of light during the darkest time of the year is also a Christian and Jewish theme and is recognized with the birth of Jesus and during Hanukkah, the festival of light.