St. Lucia (Lucy) and Her Flying Donkey
In some Northern Italian areas, especially in parts of Lombardy and Veneto, St Lucy is said to bring gifts each December 13th (Saint Lucia Day). Accompanied by her faithful flying donkey, St. Lucy rewards good children and gives coal to the cattivi (naughty) kids.
Children often leave a carrot out for her donkey and coffee for St. Lucy to celebrate her arrival. In the city of Verona, the townspeople erect a huge Christmas market in honor of Santa Lucia.
While alive, St. Lucia delivered bread to the blind, poor and homebound and was said to deliver food to Christians hiding in the catacombs often in complete darkness to avoid their being detected.
According to tradition, St. Lucy converted to Christianity at a young age but kept it a secret from her parents who had promised her hand in marriage to a pagan. She publicly refused to marry the man, and this angered the suitor immensely. She was reported to the Roman authorities and was eventually sentenced to death by fire. Although she miraculously survived the flames without harm, she was then fatally stabbed in the neck.