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Holiday calendar: Light up your St. Lucy's Day

Tonight's the night for Scandinavian girls to don crowns of candles and lead processions through the night, in celebration of St. Lucy's Day. In some locales, sweets and gifts are passed out to children. In others, the parties go on all night.

Although it's best known as a Swedish yuletide holiday, the roots of St. Lucy's Day actually go back to Sicily, where the saint lived and died. Lucy is thought to have lived in Syracuse, a city on the island of Sicily, and suffered a martyr's death around the year 310, on Dec. 13. That date has been celebrated as her feast day since the 1300s.

St. Lucy is said to deliver gifts to good children on the night of Dec. 12-13, in the company of a donkey and an escort named Castaldo. The children are told to leave out some coffee for Lucy, some flour for the donkey, and bread for Castaldo — kind of like the milk and cookies that American kids leave for Santa Claus. Click on over to "Your Guide to Italy" for more about the traditions of St. Lucy's Day.

Candlelight processions are a big part of the St. Lucy's Day festivities, whether you're in Sweden or Sicily. This night photograph of Sicily, snapped on Aug. 18 from the International Space Station, shows the island as if it were lit up for "Santa Lucia." It's tonight's offering from the Cosmic Log Advent Calendar, which highlights views of Earth from space every day from now until Christmas. We'll serve up another visual treat on Wednesday, and in the meantime, catch up on the calendar entries you may have missed:

Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.