The Italian Christmas celebration will officially start on December 13th. On this day Sicilians pay tribute to Saint Lucia, the patron saint of the city of Siracusa and also the patron saint of the blind and vision. Her intercession is often invoked against those suffering from any sort of eye disease or vision problem. The name Lucia comes from the Latin word “lux” meaning light. In Scandinavia there is also a big celebration where Saint Lucia is portrayed by a young girl wearing a white gown, with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head. It is the winter light festival of Saint Lucia at a time of the year where the days are growing longer.
The feast of Santa Lucia, is deeply rooted in Palermo’s popular tradition, and is one of the most important events in the city’s feasts calendar. Sicilians pay tribute to Saint Lucia especially at the dinner table.
“Cuccìa” is eaten in her memory and it consists of large soft wheat boiled and flavoured in many ways: adding ricotta, sugar, cinnamon or chocolate chips, classic cream or chocolate cream or candied orange! Cuccìa commemorates the saint’s having saved her home town Siracusa from a famine during the 17th century when a cargo of wheat arrived at the city’s port on Saint Lucy’s Day and, being that people were starving and that they could not wait to eat, they just took the wheat home, and ate it boiled, without grinding it and turning it into flour first in order to make bread or pasta. But the culinary experience of Palermo’s Santa Lucia day is far more than only Cuccìa; every year this feast is celebrated avoiding almost every kind of corn or flour. If you love the Arancine, Santa Lucia is your special event, in fact for this special feast you are going experience a wide range of flavours and shapes that are impossible to find during the rest of the year, in fact for the day of Santa Lucia you are going to find specials flavours like, spinach, salmons, squid ink, smoked ham, radicchio, chocolate, and many more that you are going to discover only on that day! The traditional Arancini come in two main variants: the first is perfectly round in shape filled with a ragù sauce of meat, mozzarella and peas; the second is called al burro (“with butter”) and has a longer, pear-like shape and is filled with diced mozzarella and prosciutto and grated cheese
I must point out that on the gender of rice balls, there is a real war in the island, because Palermo, Trapani and western area of Agrigento call them “arancine”, with the female name, because they are like small oranges, and in italian orange is “arancia/arance” (female names with A/E in Italian language), the eastern part of the island calls these balls “arancini”, because in Sicilian dialect orange is (also) ‘aranciu’, arancio, male! so in Western Sicily their name is arancine, in Eastern Sicily is arancini…