13th December is when the citizens of Saint Lucia celebrate National Day, honouring our patron saint, Lucy.
Although the origin of the name Saint Lucia is unclear, most of the island’s first European settlers, or visitors during the Age of Discovery, recorded our island’s name as some translation of Saint Lucia.
The feast of Saint Lucy, the patron saint of blindness, is celebrated on 13th December, the date on which this young Christian martyr is believed to have been born. One story claims that French sailors were shipwrecked on our island on that date in 1506, leading them to
call the land “Saint Alouzie”.
We have deemed 13th December our National Day, making Saint Lucy of Syracuse our patron saint. The story behind the martyred virgin has been handed down since the fourth century. At that time Christians were persecuted for their faith, and legend has it that young Lucy declined a pagan bridegroom in dedication to Christ. The governor of the day was furious and attempted to sully and hurt the maiden through various means. But, protected by her faith, Lucy could not be burnt, or defiled by men.
Legends also claim various ways in which Lucy’s eyes were gouged out but, whatever the cause, those burying her noticed her eyes restored after she died. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and of light, because her name means “light” or “lucid”.
In Saint Lucia, National Day or the feast of Saint Lucy (Saint Lucy’s Day), is celebrated with a Festival of Lights and Renewal. It begins with a parade of lanterns on the evening of 12th December when people display in central Castries their home-made, creative, themed lanterns assembled from recycled items and coloured paper. The night continues with song, dance and musical performances with appearances by masqueraders (see page 7) and stilt walkers. Then it’s the grand fireworks display followed by the ‘lighting’ of the city with strings of Christmas lights switched on, particularly at Derek Walcott square.
The Festival of Lights and Renewal represents the triumph of light over dark, good over evil and the renewal of life. It also signifies the opening of the Christmas season in Saint Lucia. Most households and local businesses that set up displays of Christmas lights usually follow tradition and do so on 13th December. However, Christmas carols will be playing in supermarkets from early November, to put you in an early festive mood.