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Devotion in December at the Festival of Santa Lucia in Sicily


The Santa Lucia Statue paraded through Ortigia, Sicily in December         Photo Credit: Matthew McCall

On December 13th, Siracusa, Sicily fills with people from all over the island and world. Just before Natale (Christmas), Siracusa’s old town of Ortigia celebrates Sicily’s patron saint, Santa Lucia. Even if you are not religious around this time of year, this Sicilian festival is sure to make you a believer, at least in the term devotion.

The festival is all for one woman, Santa Lucia. She supposedly lived in Siracusa during the 4th century, performing miracles before ultimately dying for her faith.

A crowd begins to gather in Piazza Duomo. Children sit perched on the tops of father’s shoulders in hopes of a better view. Room is limited, with most going elbow to elbow. Sicilians do not mind the lack of personal space. The processors are adorned in old uniforms and costumes, with a band following the statue paraded through town. Your stereotypical image of a little drummer boy can be seen here.

From Arab to Baroque, the town of Ortigia glistens with its mixture of architectures. The creamy-gold colored buildings yield the perfect setting for a Christmas color palette. The song “Silver and Gold” may start playing in your mind.

Lucia lends the silver element to the equation. An impressive solid silver statue of Santa Lucia begins her stroll at the Duomo in Ortigia. The statue alone becomes a walking piece of history, made by goldsmith Pietro Rizzo in the 16th century.

Since her death Santa Lucia has packed on the holiday weight for her December parade. Hordes of men are needed to carry the Santa Lucia statue to her final stop, Basilica del Sepolcro. It is here Lucia remains until the 20th of the month. The descendants of Roman and Greek gods must carry her, pausing every few feet to make stops around town, chanting “Santa Lucia” and ringing bells. Fireworks begin to go off at the harbor, signaling that Santa Lucia has in fact arrived.

While a Catholic tradition, the atmosphere in the sea air is not exclusive. The feeling is an intensely instilled belief, a celebrated tradition all can partake in, from old Sicilian women clutching their rosaries to the unsuspecting foreigner gazing down from a balcony. No matter what you may believe around the holidays, the Santa Lucia Festival in Sicily is worth experiencing for the opportunity to view Sicilian devotion at its finest.

More of the Santa Lucia procession in Sicily          Photo Credit: Matthew McCall