December 13 is Saint Lucy's Day, a Christian festivity of great popularity in Scandinavia, Italy, Hungary and Croatia. The feast day commemorates the 3rd-century martyr: according to legend, Lucy was a young Sicilian whose father had died leaving the girl and her mother without a guardian. Deeply worried by her mother's long-term illness, Lucy decided to visit Saint Agatha's shrine in Catania in hopes of a cure. As her mother was cured, Lucy requested her to distribute most of their wealth among the poor; the woman, however, had already arranged Lucy's marriage to a young man of a wealthy pagan family. Upon hearing the news that the patrimony was being distributed, Lucy's betrothed denounced her to the authorities: the tradition states that the guards who came to take her away could not move her even when they hitched her to several oxen. Lucy was then lit on fire, but would not burn; in the end, she finally met her death only after having received her last Holy Communion.
Despite Lucy being frequently portrayed holding her eyes on a golden plate, the story of her being tortured by eye-gouging is completely absent in the early narratives of her life, at least until the 15th century. The popularity of these more recent versions of her story, however, was so great that Lucy was made patron saint of the blind and of sight in general. Due to her name (Lucy's Latin name Lucia comes from the word for light, Lux) and the date of her feast day, moreover, a number of traditions celebrate the saint as the bearer of light in the darkness of winter.
"Saint Lucy", illuminated capital "E" from a Roman Missal, ms. 0136, f. 222v, 1370, Bibliothèque Municipale (Médiathèque Ceccano), Avignon.