Celebrating Light in Venice

It is known that when something is missing, it is exactly the moment in which that absence is felt more, is more intense. It is not by coincidence that the celebrations linked to light take place during the darkest months of the year. In winter, even in Venice.  

In the area of the ghetto, between the end of November and the beginning of December, Channukkà is celebrated, which in Hebrew means "inauguration" or "consecration", that means feast of the miracle of lights that recalls the lighting of the menorah, the nine-armed candelabrum, in the Temple of Jerusalem, thanks to a miraculous oil that will keep the light burning for eight days, like the eight arms of the candelabrum, in addition to the central one.

The feast lasts, in fact, for eight days, and is very popular despite the fact that it does not belong to the era of the Torah; so, there is no suspension of work. A bit like Christmas traditions, children receive gifts. They also play Sevivon, the traditional Jewish spinning top of Channukkah, on which each side is stamped with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which makes up the phrase "A great miracle happened there". The typical dessert of the festival is a kind of fried doughnut that reminds us of the oil used to keep alive the light of the Temple.

Another feast day dedicated to light and particularly popular in Venice is Santa Lucia, the patron saint of eyes, electricians and children. According to some sources, the remains of the Saint were brought from Constantinople to Venice in 1204 to the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where every year on 13 December many boats went in procession.

In 1279 the stormy sea caused some pilgrims to lose their lives, so the remains were first moved to where the railway station now stands and then, with the construction of the station, to the nearby church of San Geremia.

In some cities, including Venice where the tradition was born, the night of Santa Lucia between 12 and 13 December is magical. According to tradition, the Saint, together with her donkey, would bring sweets and gifts to children who have behaved well.

Before the reform of the Gregorian calendar, the feast day coincided with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, Christmas. A folk tune says: "Santa Lucia with her cart leaves everyone a toy and a sweet. She brings the children many gifts, all beautiful, all special".

For us at Venice Original, Channukkà and Santa Lucia are two moments that herald Christmas, to buy a special gift, and to celebrate the miracle of light that, despite all adversity, shines through and returns every year.

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