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The day of Lucia

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Dieser Brauch ist am 13.12.2019.
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The traditions of Lucia’s Day (or Luca napja in Hungarian) on December 13 can be found in several cultures from the British Isles to the Scandinavian countries. Henceforth, we shall focus on the Hungarian traditions.

Who was Lucia?

Two theories exist about her: according to folk traditions Lucia appears to be a cruel witch, who punishes others (therefore this name had not been given to girls for a long time).
According to the Christian beliefs, however, Lucia was a saint, who died for her belief as a martyr. In Northern Europe, where Lucia’s Day is more important than for example in Hungary, people wear white dress this day and burn candles (referring to the name of Lucia, which derives from the Latin word ’lux’, meaning „light”).
Besides, Lucia is also the patron of marriageable girls and people with eyesore – due to the legend that she cut her eyes out when she became aware of the fact that her fiancee liked them best in her, and second, because she declared herself to be the bride of Jesus.


Lucia’s Day, which was considered to be the shortest day of the year in the past, was a day of prohibition, especially for women. This day women were not allowed to work, to borrow, to sew, to wash, or even to set fire, otherwise Lucia punished them. In addition, demons could circle round freely this day, harming people alive. Therefore people ate garlic before going to bed and greased some on the door as well, to deter demons and prevent them from entering the house.


The most important tradition this day is undoubtedly the carving of the so-called „Lucia-chair”. Men started to make this chair on Lucia’s Day, and continued this process until Christmas. The chair has been made of nine (or occasionally thirteen) types of wood, using only wooden pegs to hold the pieces together. The form of the chair is a standard pentangular, made of five isosceles – this is called the „witch-angle”. According to the tradition, those who stood on the chair made by themselves on Christmas, could identify the witches around them, whose horns were visible that day. Those who saw the witches, had to escape from them, therefore they carried poppy seed with themselves and strewed it on the way home, in order to be able to get home safely. At home they had to make further arrangements as well by greasing garlic on the door and stab a knife in it.

Lucia's wheat

Another tradition is the „germination of Lucia’s wheat”, which was used to anticipate the weather of the following year. They thought that the more seeds turned green, the better the harvest would be in the future.

This day was suitable for fortune-telling as well: girls made twelve dumplings, putting twelve different man names in them. The dumpling that ascended first to the surface of the water contained the name of the girl’s future husband. According to another version, girls wrote twelve man names on twelve pieces of paper and threw them into fire one by one every day – the remaining one was their future husband’s name.


Finally, we should definitely mention the so-called „Lucia-calendar” as well: people observed the weather for twelve days starting from Lucia’s day to anticipate the weather of the following year, as each of these twelve days - from Lucia’s day to Christmas - represented one month.

About the picture


GYÁRFÁSNÉ KINCSES Edit. 1993. Színes kalendárium. Budapest, Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó.

KATONA Lajos. 1982. Folklór-kalendárium. Budapest, Gondolat Kiadó.

TARJÁN Gábor. 1984. Mindennapi hagyomány. Budapest, Mezőgazdasági Kiadó.

TÁTRAI Zsuzsanna – KARÁCSONY MOLNÁR Erika. 1997. Jeles napok, ünnepi szokások. Budapest, Planétás Kiadó.


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