What is Today? Santa Lucia?


The meaning of this question may be obvious. Someone is asking the date of the celebrated saint…but not for a Sicilian…!

Santa Lucia, patron saint of eyes and sight, is celebrated on the 13th of December. According to religious belief or legend, in the seventeenth century, the Saint saved the city of Palermo from starvation thanks to the miraculous arrival of a ship full of wheat.

Today, for Santa Lucia, many Sicilians maintain the tradition of not eating bread or pasta on that day, which is an enormous sacrifice for a Sicilian! Instead many other dishes are prepared…many and delicious! I must say we have lost the true sense of the devotion towards the Saint, however…

arancine e panelleAs we say in Italian: “Ogni occasione è buona” which means “every occasion is good”, but for what? For eating, of course! Maybe this is one of the reasons we eat so well in Sicily, but all through Italy, I must say.


As we say in Italian: “Ogni occasione è buona” which means “every occasion is good”, but for what? For eating, of course! Maybe this is one of the reasons we eat so well in Sicily, but also all through Italy, I must say.

The most popular speciality prepared on this day are the arancine or arancini. There is a debate about if this delicious filled rice ball is feminine or masculine. In Palermo they call them “arancine” while in Catania they say “arancini”. Either way they are irresistibly delicious.

Traditionally the arancine were filled with ragù, a sauce made with minced beef  and peas, but now, thanks to Sicilian culinary creativity, there are many versions of arancine. The second most popular ones are those “al burro” (with butter) filled with ham, mozzarella and béchamel. Creamy inside with a crisp bread-crumb crust outside.  Other ingredients used are sausage, mushrooms, salmon, spinach, pistachio…the list could go on forever! Today there is also a sweet version, using chocolate. Well, I personally prefer sticking to tradition.  However, maybe they might be worth a try.


Many other dishes are prepared for Santa Lucia, for example panelle, which are chickpea fritters, potato gateau, which is a pie made of mashed potato  with various fillings, and croquettes. So now you may understand what I mean about interpreting ‘devotion’ .   

Let’s go back to the meaning of the question.

When a Sicilian asks if today is Santa Lucia, he or she is actually complaining about the delay with which a meal is served. It’s like saying:

“Aren’t we eating today?”  



Maria Lina Bommarito
Maria Lina Bommarito
I was born in Chicago, in 1960. We returned to Sicily when I was 14 and this time it was to stay! I am married to a lawyer and we have two children that now live and work in Milan. I have a degree in Political Sciences/International Relations and an A.I.S. Sommelier diploma. My passion for what I can “the world of wine” is inevitable, living in Sicily. My wine experiences begin in the winery vineyards. I enjoy interviewing the winery agronomists and oenologists because I find it very interesting knowing all about wine and grapes and soils and vinification. My husband is also a pilot and I enjoy flying with him on a small plane enjoying the breath-taking views and taking photos. I also enjoy cooking and my favorite dishes are Sicilan. Sicily and its people are unique, there is so much to write about and I love to share my experiences with those who want to know more about this paradise. More about my bio here

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  1. My parents came from Sicily and I grew up under many Sicilian religious customs and views. I love the articles on this site! However, I do not believe in praying to saints. I believe the mix of pagan ideas and practices has compromised worship of God alone through Jesus Christ alone. This has affected not only Sicily but so many lands where pagan practices are mixed in with Christianity. Jesus spoke against the “traditions of men” that made ‘void’ the Word of God. Please read Matthew 23. The Bible is the Word of God.

  2. Interesting post. I love the arancini in Sicily. Here in Chicago, we had a native of Sicily share a barely dish with us. She mentioned that in her town in Sicily, they eat a type of cold cereal made of a whole grain (it seemed like barley to me) all day in remembrance of Santa Lucia. I guess there are many different traditions. The arancini seem much more tasty!

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