St. Lucia Day

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In Slovakia, December 13th is known as the Day of St. Lucia (Deň Svätej Lucie). This, along with with the St. Nicholas Day, is one of the witching days, stridžie dni. St. Lucia day is the most important of all of these, since, in the unreformed Julian calendar used prior to the modern Gregorian calendar, December 13th fell on the shortest day of the year. The lack of daylight made this day very favorable for the witches (strigy, striga singular) to come out! Another Slovak words for witch are bosorka and ježibaba.

About St. Lucia

Saint Lucia (or Lucy) came from Syracuse, Sicily. She was a Christian living during the Diocletianic Persecution, the largest and the final persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Her hand was given to a pagan, but she refused to marry him. According to the legend, her suitor fell in love with her beautiful eyes. To appease him, she poked her eyes out and sent them to her suitor on a plate. Virgin Marry then rewarded her by giving her a new, an even more beautiful pair of eyes.

Celebration in Slovakia

However, In Slovakia, St. Lucia is regarded as one of the greatest, strongest witches. When the guards threw her into a fire pit to burn her for witchery, they were unable to kill her and she continued to live. For this reason, on the eve of St. Lucia day, people all over Slovakia ate garlic (cesnak). Garlic protected people from evil, and many used it to smear a cross somewhere on their body. Crosses made using garlic, chalk or blessed salt were also placed on doors to the houses and the barns to keep witches from entering. On this day, it was also forbidden for women to visit neighbors. The woman could be a witch, and if not, it was believed that she would bring bad luck. Villages were also protected by the shepheards (pastieri) who walked from house to house, and blew a horn specially prepared for this occasion. People also constructed a small stool (lucijný stôlček). It was made without nails or metal fasteners and had a hole cut out. By looking through this hole, the maker would spot the witches.

St. Lucia day was also common for love magic. Various traditions existed. In one, girls looking for a mate would make a paper star with enough corners to last until Christmas. The names of available village lads were written into the corners, and a corner was pulled off randomly every evening and thrown into the fire. The name that remained indicated the suitor.

The most famous tradition associated with this day were the walks of Lucias, pochôdzky Luciek. Young girls dressed all in white (usually by wearing a large bed sheet and a white head scarf). They dusted their face with flour and sometimes even made fake teeth out of potatoes. One Lucy carried a bucket of dry wall (vápno) and a brush (štetka). Another carried a goose wing (husie krídlo) which she used to brush off spiderwebs. This cleaning was supposed to rid the house of witches.

Sources for this article:

  • Vianoce na Slovensku by Zuzana Drugova
  • Wikipedia
  • My grandma