The Famine of 1646

In the days leading up to the Feast of Santa Lucia, December 13, many Sicilians refrain from eating pasta and only eat un-ground wheat grain, or “farro,” that is prepared as a dish called cuccìa. Devotees observe this ritual to remember the severe famine that struck Siracusa and Palermo in 1646. During that time of Spanish domination, the faithful prayed to their patron saint, seeking relief from hunger. Finally in May, during a mass, a squawking quail flew into the duomo in Ortigia (NB, the name “Ortigia” comes from the Ancient Greek word “ortyx,” which means quail.). At that moment, a messenger entered the church announcing that ships had arrived carrying wheat grain, a scene documented in this altar in the photograph. All hailed it a miracle, attributing the relief to Santa Lucia having answered their prayers. Now, annually for her feast day in December and also again in May, devotees process a precious silver statue (shown yesterday) through the streets in homage to the patron saint of sight, eyes, light, and wheat.

Celebrate light with us! Join us in New York City this Sun., Dec. 10 at 2PM at Cacio e Vino restaurant to celebrate the Feast of Santa Lucia. Your reservation includes a four-course traditional Sicilian menu with wine, tax, and gratuities included, a short concert by music duo Villa Palagonia, a presentation about the cult of Santa Lucia by Experience Sicily, and a raffle of various prizes.

Reserve your spot at

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