+++ This is a re-post from a few years ago +++
Celebrating Santa Lucia Day, December 13
Happy Santa Lucia Day. I love this day in December. Lovely memories... When my daughters were young we used to celebrate it by getting up really early in the morning and baking some rolls. Then we would arrange a tea tray with a beautiful cloth, teapot and the baked goods. One of the girls would don a candle wreath on her head (we actually lit the candles), wear a white nightgown and a red ribbon, climb the stairs with tray in hand, and serve each person in bed. I always followed them up, checking for hair fires and dripping wax.
Somewhere deep in my genetic recesses I felt that the light began to return on December 13. I thought that perhaps I was imagining it, but come to find out it's true. According to Katherine Swift in THE MORVILLE HOURS, daylight begins to "draw out again... Though the solstice is not until the 21st, from now on the sun will set a minute or two later each day. There is no net gain in daylight hours for another week, as the sun will go on rising later until 30 December." She goes on to say that before the reform of the calendar, St. Lucy's Day coincided with Winter Solstice.
Here's a few family photos from our Lucia days. And a few earlier winter ones. Where did the time go?
And here's one of the old snow guys. Looks like we used most of the snow in the front yard to create him. Oui! Oui! Joyeux Noel!
Happy return of the Light and Happy Christmas to all!
It was commonly believed in Scandinavia as late as the end of the 19th century that this was the longest night of the year, coinciding with Winter Solstice. The same can be seen in the poem "A Nocturnal upon S. Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day" by the English poet John Donne.
While this does not hold for our current Gregorian calendar, a discrepancy of 8 days would have been the case in the Julian calendar during the 14th century, resulting in Winter solstice falling on December 13. With the original adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century the discrepancy was 10 days and had increased to 11 days in the 18th century when Scandinavia adopted the new calendar, with Winter solstice falling on December 9.
It is very difficult to tell the exact date of the Winter solstice without modern equipment (although the Neolithic builders of the Newgrange monument seem to have managed it). The day itself is not visibly shorter than the several days leading up to and following it and although the actual Julian date of Winter solstice would have been on the December 15 or 14 at the time when Christianity was introduced to Scandinavia, December 13 could well have lodged in peoples mind as being the shortest day.
The choice of 13 December as Saint Lucy's day, however, obviously predates the 8 day error of the 14th century Julian calendar. This date is attested in the pre-Tridentic Monastic calendar, probably going back to the earliest attestations of her life in the 6th and 7th centuries, and it is the date used throughout Europe.
At the time of Saint Lucy's death, Winter solstice fell on December 21 and the date of the birth of Christ on the 25th. The latter was also celebrated as being the day when the Sun was born, the birthday of Sol Invictus, as can be seen in the Chronography of 354. This latter date was thought by the Romans to be the Winter solstice and it is natural to think of the sun being born that day. Early Christians considered this a likely date for their saviour's nativity, as it was commonly held that the world was created on Spring equinox (thought to fall on March 25 at the time), and that Christ had been conceived on that date, being born 9 months later on Winter solstice. - Wikipedia