The Holidays Celebrated In Colonial America

St. Vitus's Day

{ The 15th of June }

  Vitus was born circa 290 in Sicily, the son of a senator, Hylas. He converted to Christianity at the age of twelve along with some friends, and his father was so outraged that he called upon the Roman authorities to have his son arrested and whipped. The boys soon thereafter left and traveled to Rome. The Emperor Diocletian's son was afflicted with fits which, it was believed, was being caused by evil spirits. Vitus cured the son, and the Emporer prepared to make a sacrifice to the Roman gods in thanks. Vitus refused to participate in the sacrifice, and the Emporer was angered. Vitus was martyred at the age of thirteen or fourteen circa 303 in Luciana, Italy by being boiled in oil.

  St. Vitus is primarily associated as the patron saint of people suffering from diseases such as epilepsy and Sydenham's chorea (variously, St. Vitus' Dance and other diseases of the nervous system. People inflicted with the frenetic jerking movements indicative of suffering from Syndenham's chorea were believed to be caught up in a religious ecstacy. Because he was the patron saint of dancers and actors, St. Vitus' name was given to the sufferers of the supposed religious ecstacy. The cure for the ailment was not only to invoke St. Vitus' blessing, but to make a pilgrimage to Incudine, Italy where the shrine of St. Vitus has existed since the Medieval Ages.

  St. Vitus's blessing is also invoked against the bites of dogs and snakes and against storms and lightning.

  St. Vitus' Day was one of the days held to be capable of foretelling the weather. A popular rhyme noted: If St. Vitus' Day be rainy weather, it shall rain for thirty days together.