lengthening of the days in the European winter. Lucy was a virgin martyr who lived in Sicily during the third century. She was persecuted for her faith by the Roman emperor Diocletian, and died when her neck was pierced with a sword.
On the same day some ships loaded with grain sailed into the harbour, and a famine was ended.
At the time the Julian calendar was used. When the Gregorian calendar was implemented, the date was changed from 13 December to 21 December. However, the date of 13 December is still the day of St Lucy's feast.
In Sweden, the Christmas celebrations start on 13 December. In old times people used to write the word "Lussi" on fences, doors and walls, to tell the demons of winter that the longer days were returning and it was time for the demons to go away.
It is tradition that a daughter of the house puts on a white dress with a red sash, and puts an evergreen wreath with lighted candles on her head. She then wakes her family up with hot coffee and saffron buns.
In Sicily people celebrate St Lucy's day with a dish called cuccia, made of wheat berries, chocolate, sugar and milk. The children take bowls full of cuccia to the neighbours as gifts. This tradition was taken to America with Sicilian immigrants.