The Feast of Saint Lucia in Calabria

Saint Lucia and Calabria, between faith and folklore

© Regione Calabria

Sites of faith

The cult of Saint Lucia in Calabria, the "saint of light" par excellence, is very much felt and gives communities and visitors a series of unmissable traditions on the day of the celebration, 13 December, a date that immediately after the feast of the Immaculate Conception, marks the approach to Christmas.

Stabbed to death in Syracuse in the 4th century, after her martyrdom by blinding for her Christian faith, Saint Lucia became the protector of the eyes, symbol of light and gift. So much so that in Sicily, it is a tradition for children to wait for "Saint Lucia's Gifts", rather than those of Father Christmas.

Devotion to Saint Lucia in Calabria is equally strong and is expressed in various locations, from north to south, through religious and non-religious celebrations.

Saint Lucia and Calabria: cult and tradition

On the night of 13 December, Calabria is lit up with dozens of bonfires sacred to Saint Lucia.

The Saint Lucia's Fires unite the sacred and the profane, in a widespread ritual linked as much to the Christian saint as to the winter solstice and the Mithraic ritual.

In use above all among pastoral communities, the Fire of Saint Lucia was first lit indoors in the sheepfolds, then in the churchyard of the Mother Church and in some towns even from one neighbourhood to another, with real competitions to see who could erect the largest fòcara, as is still the case today for the districts of the city of Crotone.

Here, young people and adults build the neighbourhood pyre for weeks, competing at the "most beautiful fire". The wood is collected and hidden until the fateful date of 13 December, when the sacred fires light up the entire town.

Fuoco di Santa Lucia
Regione Calabria

The Fires of Saint Lucia also burn in the province of Cosenza. Famous are those of Castrovillari, Scigliano, Bisignano and Amendolara, often accompanied by the sound of bagpipes, songs and festive dances of ancient origin.

In the province of Catanzaro, the town of Motta Santa Lucia pays homage to its saint with services held in the church dedicated to her. The small church in the historic centre is among the beauties to visit in the town, together with the Mother Church of S. Maria delle Grazie. A stroll through the streets of the centre allows you to admire the façades of the noble palaces and the fine granite portals.

Motta Santa Lucia
Regione Calabria

It is a must to taste the traditional "Breads of Saint Lucia", widespread everywhere but really special in this locality, since Motta Santa Lucia is a member of the "Bread Cities" circuit for the high quality of its traditional bread-making.

Finally, Santa Lucia in Reggio Calabria is honoured by the parish of the same name, in a beautiful Renaissance-style church, with sacred ceremonies and neighbourhood celebrations.

Typical dishes of Saint Lucia

Mention was made of the traditional "Bread of Saint Lucia", the soft lussekatters of the Nordic peoples made with saffron and sultanas, which in Calabria translate into actual bread rolls to take to church for blessing. The peculiar double scroll shape evokes the saint's eyes, which is why it is customary to give them to those with poor eyesight.

Another custom of the Feast of Saint Lucia in Calabria, particularly in the province of Cosenza, is the distribution of dried figs, which in these parts translate into the delicious Fico Dottato di Cosenza PDO.

In Altomonte, one of The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy, dried figs are part of the tradition of the "9 things of Saint Lucia" together with cereals and pulses, i.e., the 9 courses that cannot be missing from the Calabrian table on 13 December.

In Corigliano-Rossano, on the other hand, there are 13 courses, just like the day dedicated to the saint.

Fichi secchi

Ultimo aggiornamento: Feb 14, 2024 2:26 PM