For today’s Sunday Dinner, I’m inviting you to pull up a chair as I share some fun research behind the history I include in my upcoming Christmas novella, As Silent as the Night. This is the second of three posts. If you missed the first post, you can read it here. Today I’ll share about Santa Lucia Day.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado please tell us interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
Be I grew up playing piano, I have a rule that October 15 is when I can start practicing Christmas music, however I don’t like to listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
As Silent as the Night is the third book in my Strike to the Heart series
He can procure anything, except his heart’s deepest wish. She might hold the key, if she’s not discovered first.
Chicago, 1933―Lucia Critelli will do anything for her ailing grandfather, including stand in a breadline to have enough food to make him a St. Nicholas Day meal. When she catches the eye of a goon who threatens her grandfather, she discovers the end of Prohibition doesn’t mean the end of the mafia’s criminal activity.
Retired Marine Scout Giosue “Gio” Vella can find anything, especially if it helps a fellow Italian immigrant, so he has no doubt he can locate his neighbor’s granddaughter, who has gone missing from a local church. Keeping her safe is another matter. Especially when he chooses to hide out with his Marine buddy in Eagle, Wisconsin, the site of a barely-held truce among striking dairy farmers.
Will Christmas bring the miracle they all need or will Gio discover there are some things even he can’t find, particularly when he stumbles upon the most elusive gift of all: love.
Why do you include Santa Lucia Day observance in the story?
My female main character is named Lucia, an Italian name that means “light.” With themes of silent nights, starlight, diamonds, and the light of Christmas, this was the perfect name for her. Being Italian, it also meant that her patron saint was St. Lucia and Santa Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13, so I was able to include that in the story.
What is Santa Lucia Day?
St. Lucia was a young virgin martyr who died in 304 AD. Her marital status is part of her story because it is said her betrothed is the one who condemned her due to her Christian beliefs and because she brought aid to persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs.
How is Santa Lucia historically celebrated?
The two communities I know that celebrate Santa Lucia are the Italian community and the Swedish community. Each community seems to focus on one aspect of Santa Lucia’s story. In the Swedish celebrations, they tell stories of how Lucia helped the Christians in hiding by wearing a wreath of candles on her head to light her way in the dark catacombs. Perhaps you’ve seen the American Girl, Kristin’s story showing this. This is also likely because her Feast Day coincides with what was traditionally known as darkest day of the year, especially in Scandinavian countries. The Italian community seems to focus more on her death and the loss of her sight, well, her eyes. It’s a sad, gruesome story I won’t tell here.
How can we celebrate Santa Lucia today?
I’ve always appreciated the story of St. Lucia because of how she is the epitome of light in the darkness. It makes me wonder how we can be a light to those around us. What kind of sacrificial service can we do, especially during the holiday season, to show light and kindness to those who are facing dark times?
Were resources easy or difficult to find on this topic? Do you have a favorite resource?
St. Lucia’s story is easy to find and it’s interesting to see how her story has morphed through the years and into different cultures. One interesting piece of information is that, in Italy, Lucia is often seen as the person giving gifts on Christmas, only instead of a sleigh, she rides a Donkey. As a nod to this, Glenn, the donkey from To Stand in the Breach, makes a prominent appearance in As Silent as the Night.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
There are recipes for dishes served specifically for Santa Lucia Day and I am more familiar with the Swedish recipes, which didn’t fit into this story. Also, if you are a fan of the Andy Griffith Show, there is an episode with a rendition of the song “Santa Lucia,” which I can’t help humming every time I talk about St. Lucia.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Thank you for joining me today!
If you would like to purchase a copy of As Silent as the Night, you can find purchase links on this landing page. If you’d like to learn more about me, you can visit my About Me page, which also has my newsletter sign up and social media links.
Since next week is a holiday in the US, in two weeks, I’ll be back to talk about more Christmas traditions that appear in As Silent as the Night. See you then!