St Lucia Day stems from a pagan winter solstice celebration that was combined with remembrance of St Lucy. She helped persecuted Christians in Rome by bringing them food. In order to carry things in both hands, she would wear a ring of candles on her head to help her find her way through the dark tunnels to the prisoners.
Today, Swedish girls dress in white dresses with red sashes and crowns of candles for celebrations at schools and churches. A national Lucia is even chosen. Lucias usually go around and visit patients in hospitals and nursing homes, singing songs and handing out Pepparkakor.
St Lucia Day is also celebrated in Norway, Denmark and Finland and has been since the 1700s.
Here’s a recipe for Lussekatter (St Lucia Buns):
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
- 1 cup melted butter
- 1/2 tsp. saffron threads, finely crumbled (or 1 tsp. powdered saffron)
- 1 cup milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 pkg. dry active yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
- 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs, well-beaten, plus one egg white
- raisins or currants to decorate
Crumble saffron threads into melted butter. Let sit 30 minutes to an hour (this intensifies the saffron flavor).
Heat milk to a light boil, turning off heat when it reaches the scalding point (with small bubbles across the top). Stir in melted butter, sugar, and salt. Pour mixture into mixing bowl and allow to cool until “finger-warm” (still quite warm, but just cool enough to touch). Stir in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
Mix 3 1/2 cups flour into liquid. Stir in two well-beaten eggs. Add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough (just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You don’t want to add too much flour).
Transfer dough to a large greased bowl and turn to coat all sides. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down risen dough. Lightly knead two or three times on a floured surface. Pinch off small handfuls of dough (about the size of a racquetball) and roll into “snakes.” Shape snakes into “S”-shaped buns or other desired shapes (please see my photo gallery of Lucia buns for traditional examples). Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with the towel again, and allow to rise until doubled (about an hour).
Decorate buns with raisins, brush with egg white, and bake in preheated 375º oven about 15 minutes, just until brown. Yield: 20 St. Lucia Buns (“Lussekatter”)
- St. Lucia and the Festival of Lights (welcometomunchen.wordpress.com)
- Scandinavia Celebrates the Feast of St. Lucia To see more… (instagram.com)
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- Happy St. Lucia Day (statesideswede.wordpress.com)
- SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: Sankta Lucia Day (oaxacaborn.com)
- Lussekatter Saint Lucia Buns Recipe (justasmidgen.com)
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- December 13th, Santa Lucia (tuesdaytheory.wordpress.com)