December 13th marks St. Lucy’s Day, or Sankta Lucia as our Scaninavian Sister Churches call it. This particular day is one of importance on the Anglican Calendar. Our rubrics use it as the feast by which we determine the Advent Ember Days. However, there is another new and important element to be added to this feast: The Anglican Church in North America is in full Communion (Table and Pulpit fellowship) with the North American Lutheran Church. St. Lucy’s Day is of particular importance to the ancient churches who have found themselves within the Lutheran School, and one that we share in common. It would be foolish to neglect St. Lucy as a means to foster the fellowship that she already represents between them and us. If you are an ACNA parish wishing to celebrate St. Lucy’s Day this year, please take a moment to reach out to your local NALC parish and invite them to the festivities, thus fulfilling the petition of Christ’s High Priestly Prayer and the exhortation of our godly Bishops.
The Color: Red (Martyrdom)
St. Lucy (Lucia) was martyred in Syracuse under the Emperor Diocletian sometime in the early 4th century for the Christian Faith, thus entitling her to a commemoration of a Martyr: 1David Hugh Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints
“Almighty God, you gave your servant St. Lucy boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Of a Martyr, BCP 637
It is better to think of St. Lucy’s Day as a festival than as simply as a service. The celebrations are so rich, and so much has come to be attached to the holiday that the service(s) are really only one part of the whole ordeal. There are English folk-rites even attached to the Eve of St. Lucy’s which have not been described here, but are evident from John Donne’s famous poem. The celebrations begin in the home and work their way outward toward the community, culminating in the serves of the Church.
It is customary on St. Lucy’s morning for the youngest of a family’s daughters to dress as Lucy herself. This includes donning all white save for the red sincture or cord which is tied around her waist to commemorate Lucia’s Martyrdom. Atop her head is placed a wreath from whose top protrudes several white candles. As legend goes, St. Lucy would provide provisions for Christians hiding from persecution in the catacombs. In order to carry more she donned such a headdress as a kind of makeshift headlamp in order to see into the darkness. Once attired the daughter(s) has the delightful duty of serving the rest of the family morning tea. St. Lucy Buns, a kind of saffron roll, are the traditional food of the day. They are consume morning to evening and often given as gifts. You can make your own (a wonderful family tradition) or purchase them here. Once the family has eaten, the rest of the morning is then filled with sweets and laughter. There are many children’s books for St. Lucy’s Day that families can read together and prepare for morning Morning Prayer. This is an excellent time for parents to instruct their children in the sweetness of service, and the light Christ we all bear. Reminding them that He is the true light that shines in the darkness and that He is seen in the lives of His Saints. “Lucy” means “light”, but hers, as is ours, is none other than Christ shining through His members.
The people then come together for Morning Prayer in their local parish. Once upon a time Morning Prayer was said daily within the parish, and it was more than ordinary for the laity to join the priests and deacons in the daily sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to Our Lord. Though this has unfortunately fallen into neglect (often to no fault of either the clerics or laity) it is something to aspire to. St. Lucy’s Day serves as a wonderful opportunity for the whole family to participate in this ancient expectation. Morning Prayer is then said according to the rites of this Church, namely the Book of Common Prayer, making use of the Collect given above. The clerics ought to wear chor dress: Cassocock, English Surplice, Academic Hood, Black Preaching Scarf (Tippet), Preaching Bands, and (if possible) a Red Cope.
After Morning Prayer the parish may have a festival full of baked goods and hot drinks. This is often best done closer to evening as St. Lucy’s Day is a kind of Festival of Lights. Plenty of candles and lights should be used so as to set the tone of the holiday. Whatever the case, there should be plenty of merriment! After all, we are celebrating a martyr and there is nothing Christian’s triumph in more than martyrdom. Gløgg, seasonal mulled wine, is the traditional beverage of this holiday. You can make your own, or purchase it from a store. It is also customary for the Lucia buns described above to be served. American expressions of the season may include pies, eggnog, fruitcake, and beer. Gingerbread cookies and houses serve as an overlap between both the American and Scandinavian traditions. Other food, of course, may be added as desired. The priest may bless the people and food with the Prayer of Thanksgiving found on page 681 of the Book of Common Prayer or some other blessing suitable for a feast. The neighborhood’s poor should likewise be invited. Advent is still penitential after all. St. Lucy’s Day shouldn’t be taken as an occasion for gluttony, but an opportunity to give. Perhaps a play of St. Lucia is put on by the Children, or the story of St. Stephen or the Protomartyr. Then comes a favorite tradition of the Scandinavian Churches: Electing a St. Lucy. This can be done in a multiplicity of ways. It is the custom of some to vote for a young girl to be that year’s Lucia, or it is the tradition of others to pick the name by random drawing. Either way is fine. Perhaps it is better for smaller parishes where there are some children who may have their feelings hurt to make use of a random drawing, while larger parishes can vote for a girl to be St. Lucy. Whatever the case, once she is elected she is dressed in white, the red cincture is placed around her waist, and the wreath of candles is set atop her head. The other children are also dressed in white and carry candles. The boys often wearing cone-like hats decorated with stars. It is then in keeping with tradition for Lucia to serve those around her. This is, in our opinion, best accomplished via a procession.
The St. Lucy together with all people form a procession and make their way into town or the neighborhood singing carols and giving out other sweets. The traditional anthem of St. Lucy’s Day is the Santa Lucia. The English order of Procession is as follows: firstly the verger with gown and wand making way for and directing the procession. 2See Dearmer’s The Parson’s Handbook, Chapter VII Secondly the boy with Holy Water. Thirdly is the crucifer followed by the torch-bearers. Fifthly is the thurifer & boat-boy. Sixth is the epistler (sub-deacon) followed by the gospeller (deacon). Seventh is the priest in choir dress, as he was for Morning Prayer. Eighth is St. Lucy herself in white, a cope (if desired), crown ablaze, and bearing Santa Lucia buns. She may be surrounded by other children (not too young) serving as torch bearers and bannermen. It may be desirable to construct a banner particularly for St. Lucy’s Day for the parish to use year after year. Finally comes the choir and the rest of the people. The processors may make their way into the town or neighborhood caroling and passing out buns and other sweets to whoever may be found. It may be the custom of some parish to process to a particular part of the town, perhaps a town square, and there hand out buns and cookies to passerbyers. As this is not a Eucharistic Service, the alb and other Eucharistic vestments should not be worn. The cassock-alb should ideally never be worn. Cassock and surplice is the proper attire for the majority of Anglican services, including this one. Roles may be omitted from the procession as needed, but the ordering may not be changed.
Returning to the Church, the people process inside as described above. The focus of the service should be placed upon the lights within the parish. The candles are the primary aesthetic of St. Lucy’s Day. The whole building should be dark except for the lights on the altar, the standards, and the candles in the processor’s hands. It is recommended that the elected Lucia have some part to play in the liturgy. St. Lucy makes her way to the altar, she curtsies instead of bowing (due to candles on her head), and then makes her way to wherever the Advent candles have been placed (typically on the left side of the altar or of the way). She then may be the one to light the advent candles. She may then be seated with the choir or the people, whatever is the custom of the parish. From here the service resumes as it would any other day. After Evening Prayer, the people process out as then entered.