Image: Francesco del Cossa, Saint Lucy, c. 1473/1474
December 13th is Santa Lucia day, a day of celebration, especially in Scandinavian countries which centers on a procession of girls (boys are incorporated now as well) dressed in white with candles in their hair. Over time, safer methods have been developed.
There is a food connection too. Along with gingersnaps, a sweet raisin roll with a touch of saffron is the traditional treat of the season. The rolls are called ‘Lucia cats’ (lussekatter), because they are often shaped to look like sleeping cats. As part of the tradition, a daughter will serve the bread with coffee to the family.
The celebration is named after a martyr from Sicily who refuses to marry a pagan, is exposed as a Christian, suffers a number of gruesome treatments – including having her eyes poked out, only to have them grow back. Part of the legend is that she brought food to Christians hiding in the catacombs. Unable to carry the food and a candle at the same time, she put candles in a wreath worn on her head to make her way through the caves. Santa Lucia as a bringer of light during the longest nights of the year made its way into Northern European traditions.
For our Saturday trip to the world of art, we highlight one that is in local holdings. The painting of Santa Lucia above is one of the more striking paintings in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. It was commissioned by Floriano Griffoni for a family chapel in the church of San Petronio, Bologna in the 15th century.
If you are in D.C. for this holiday season and looking for a great restaurant, our dining guide can illuminate a solution to that question. We have more than 200 places that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and/or rating! In both MAP or LIST format.