ʻAdvent Traditionsʻ - Feast of St. Lucy

The Feast of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, is on December 16th . Her Feast, always in the season of Advent, has many perennial customs attached to it. The Pictorial Lives of the Saints (Shea, J.G., 1887recounts her story: 

"THE mother of St. Lucy suffered four years from an issue of blood, and the help of man failed. St. Lucy reminded her mother that a woman in the Gospel had been healed of the same disorder. “St. Agatha,” she said, “stands ever in the sight of Him for whom she died. Only touch her sepulchre with faith, and you will be healed.” They spent the night praying by the tomb, till, overcome by weariness, both fell asleep. St. Agatha appeared in vision to St. Lucy, and calling her sister, foretold her mother’s recovery and her own martyrdom. That instant the cure was effected; and in her gratitude the mother allowed her daughter to distribute her wealth among the poor, and consecrate her virginity to Christ. A young man to whom she had been promised in marriage, accused her as a Christian to the heathen; but our Lord, by a special miracle, saved from outrage this virgin whom He had chosen for His own. The fire kindled around her did her no hurt. Then the sword was plunged into her heart, and the promise made at the tomb of St. Agatha was fulfilled."

On the Feast of St. Lucy there are many customs throughout the world that usually involve ʻlightʻ since that is what her name means. In some places torch processions or elaborate bonfires are lit in her honor. There is also a specifically Swedish Tradition, which has caught on in some Catholic circles here in Hawaii, of having the eldest daughter in the family waking up before the rest of the family and wearing a white gown with a ʻhakuʻ (or wreath) of light. Her and her helpers, know as starboys (because of the star adorned hats they wear), go around to the rest of the family and wake them up with some delicious St. Lucy Day food. In some places, especially Sweden, this custom even takes place as part of a community event via St. Lucy Day procession of Light

For an idea of how to celebrate St. Lucyʻs Day in your family take a look at the following link which has step by step instructions including recipes for St. Lucyʻs Day food :) http://www.wikihow.com/Celebrate-St.-Lucia-Day

image via creative commons. Icon of St. Lucy
image from The Pictorial Lives of the Saints (Shea, J.G., 1887). Public Domain
Procession image via wikimedia commons.By Fredrik Magnusson

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today, December 8th, is the great feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother of God, Mary most holy.

“The Most Holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

 - Ex Cathedra Statement of Pius IX in “Ineffabilis Deus

If you are interested in studying the biblical and traditional basis of the Immaculate Conception and the other beautiful Marian Dogma check out these posts from several years back:

Mary Most Holy: ʻPotuit, decuit, ergo fecit!ʻ

Mary Most Holy: Mother of God & Ark of the New Covenant

image from the 'Public domain' via wikimedia commonsImmaculate Conception
Magisterial excerpt from Ott, L., 1957. Fundamentals of Catholic dogma

ʻAdvent Traditionsʻ - The Feast of St. Nicholas

December 6th is the Feast of St. Nicholas. MY favorite story of St. Nicholas deals with his presence at the Council of Nicaea where he slapped the heretic Arius for his denial of the two natures of Christ! Here is Dr. Taylor Marshall, of http://www.taylormarshall.com, retelling the story:


BUT, of course, my children much prefer the other famous stories of St. Nicholas or ʻSanta Clausʻ which is a rough distortion of his name. The Pictorial Lives of the Saints (Shea, J.G., 1887recounts one of his famous stories here:  

"ST. NICHOLAS - Throughout his life he retained the bright and guileless manners of his early years, and showed himself the special protector of the innocent and the wronged. Nicholas once heard that a person who had fallen into poverty intended to abandon his three daughters to a life of sin. Determined, if possible, to save their innocence, the Saint went out by night, and, taking with him a bag of gold, flung it into the window of the sleeping father and hurried off. He, on awaking, deemed the gift a godsend, and with it dowered his eldest child. The Saint, overjoyed at his success, made like venture for the second daughter; but the third time, as he stole away, the father, who was watching, overtook him and kissed his feet, saying: “Nicholas, why dost thou conceal thyself from me? Thou art my helper, and he who has delivered my soul and my daughters’ from hell.” 

It is from these and many other stories of St. Nicholas that he is known for his generosity and care of the young and innocent. Many customs were formed throughout the centuries involving the Feast of St. Nicholas and has, though thoroughly commercialized, resulted in some of the ʻSanta Clausʻ traditions that the secular world embraces today. There are  many Advent Traditions, however, that still properly honor this great Saint on the day of or on the eve of his Feast day, December 6th. Here are few mentioned in ʻAround the Year with the TRAPP FAMILYʻ, Maria Augusta Trapp, 1955. Pantheon Books :

"While in some places the children only put their shoes on the window sill on the eve of St. Nicholas' Day and find them filled with candies, cookies, oranges, and dried fruit the next morning (but only the good ones; the bad ones find a switch), in other parts St. Nicholas comes in person. On the eve of December 5th . . . The holy bishop (Father of the house dressed as St. Nicholas), in his pontifical vestments, accompanied by Krampus, would enter the room while everybody stood up reverently. . . He calls each member of the household forward, rewarding the good and admonishing the less good. The good children will get a package of sweets, whereas Krampus aims at the legs of the children who did not deserve one. After everyone has received his due, the holy bishop addresses a few words of general admonition to the whole family, acting as a precursor to the One Who is to come, drawing their thoughts toward Christmas, asking them to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Holy Child."

image from The Pictorial Lives of the Saints (Shea, J.G., 1887). Public Domain

ʻAdvent Traditionsʻ - The Feast of St. Barbara

During this Advent season (a time of penitential preparation and restrained joy in anticipation of the birth of Christ) there are many beautiful traditions that ages of Catholics participated in that have sadly been replaced with commercialized holiday shopping and premature Christmas parties. I would like to, on this blog, share some of those traditions throughout this Advent season as a means of slowly restoring some of the beautiful Catholic Advent traditions.

Today (December 4th) is the Feast of St. Barabara, Virgin and Martyr. The Pictorial Lives of the Saints (Shea, J.G., 1887) recounts her story here:  
"ST. BARBARA was brought up a heathen. A tyrannical father, Dioscorus, had kept her jealously secluded in a lonely tower which he had built for the purpose. Here, in her forced solitude, she gave herself to prayer and study, and contrived to receive instruction and baptism by stealth from a Christian priest. Dioscorus, on discovering his daughter’s conversion, was beside himself with rage. He himself denounced her before the civil tribunal. Barbara was horribly tortured, and at last was beheaded, her own father, merciless to the last, acting as her executioner. God, however, speedily punished her persecutors. While her soul was being borne by angels to Paradise, a flash of lightning struck Dioscorus, and he was hurried before the judgment-seat of God."

Tradition has it that while St. Barbara was captive in the tower she kept a branch of cherry tree which she watered and tended to. On the day of her martyrdom, it blossomed! A beautiful Advent tradition stemmed from this and is usually (but not necessarily) reserved for the unmarried members of a household: 
"On the fourth of December, unmarried members of the household are supposed to go out into the orchard and cut twigs from the cherry trees  and put them into water. There is an old belief that whoever's cherry  twig blossoms on Christmas Day can expect to get married in the following  year. As most of us are always on tour at this time of the year, someone at home will be commissioned to "cut the cherry twigs." These will be put  in a vase in a dark corner, each one with a name tag, and on Christmas  Day they will be eagerly examined; and even if they are good for nothing  else, they provide a nice table decoration for the Christmas dinner." - ʻAround the Year with the TRAPP FAMILYʻ, Maria Augusta Trapp, 1955. Pantheon Books
image from the 'Public domain' {{PD-Art}} .San Clemente de Roma
image from The Pictorial Lives of the Saints (Shea, J.G., 1887). Public Domain