She Answered Their Prayers

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A severe famine struck Siracusa and its environs in 1646, the time of Spanish domination of Sicily. For relief, the citizens prayed to their patron saint, Santa Lucia, and in May that year during a mass, a quail flew into the Cathedral squawking at the faithful. At the same moment, a messenger entered the church announcing that ships had arrived carrying wheat grain and other foodstuffs. All hailed it as a miracle and that their “Santuzza,” Santa Lucia had answered their prayers. In recognition, for the days leading up to her main feast day, December 13, devotees refrain from eating pasta and only eat the un-ground wheat grain (pictured here) prepared as a dish called Cuccìa (see earlier post), which is sweet or savory, depending on the recipe. To make Cuccìa, you soak the wheat grain to soften it–a faster preparation than grinding it to make flour for bread and pasta. Legend is that Palermo suffered the same famine, and in recognition of Santa Lucia providing the miracle of the ships arriving in relief, Palermitani fervently consume arancine, rice balls (see earlier post). However you celebrate this day in honor of the Patron Saint of light, eyes, sight, and wheat, Buona Festa!

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