Santa Lucia Day and Cookie making number 5

Christmas - Santa Lucia Sweden
13th December

The first time I can remember anything to do with Saint Lucia was many years ago in a large wooden garden shed made into a haven for yarn lovers. My Swedish weaving teacher and also a nun, was allowed within the convent grounds to have the most amazing hide away from the world, which she shared with anyone who showed an interest. It was here that many people owe their weaving and spinning love of life. She taught children from as small as 4 to adults long retired and I was lucky enough to be one of them. Ingrid loved life and had an interest in everything, it was not always easy to understand her as her Swedish accent was thick and she used a mixture of English and Swedish as she spoke, but there was no mistaking her singing the beautiful Saint Lucia song, which she did often in the days of December. Awww, memories, I have not thought of that haven of a shed or Ingrid for a while...

What is Saint Lucia Day?

It was believed many years ago that the 13th December was the shortest day of the year, a discrepancy of 8 days in our modern calender and it is thought that this feast was made ever more popular with the theme of light and dark. Many candles are used on this saints feast day. It is believed that Saint Lucia was Sicilian and is perhaps why both the Italians and the Scandinavians celebrate this feast day more than any other country, Italy for having the saint and Scandinavia for being in the middle of the dark season. Remember in the north of Scandinavia right now, they do not see sunlight at all. 

The story behind Saint Lucia is a bit vague but one of the stories associated with her and her sad death states that she was in Sicily at the shrine of Saint Agnes looking for help for her mother's illness when an angel appeared before her. Lucia from then on in became a devout Christian and refused to give up her virginity to the man she would have wed also denouncing the Roman state of the time. The villagers threatened to take her to a brothel if she did not renounce her Christian belief but were not able to shift her mind or body.  The story retells how even a thousand men and fifty oxen could not budge her! So, they built a fire around her instead and set light to it.  This did not stop Lucia from speaking  out and she was heard to say that her beliefs in Christianity meant she had no fear of death.  A nearby solider speared her through the throat to stop her speaking!  Another story tells that on 13th December a gentleman in  Sweden was woken up in the middle of the night by a beautiful voice, he saw a young woman wearing white  and having wings and carrying a candle.  She had brought him light, food and wine for comfort on what was thought to be the longest night of the year.  Whichever story is true and there are several more, Saint Lucia Day in Scandinavia is celebrated in style and has become another beautiful tradition to light up the darkness.

Although Norwegians  celebrated Lucia some few hundred years ago, it became  a long forgotten celebration until after WWII when they adopted the very popular Swedish custom of Saint Lucia.  It is now celebrated all over the country with schools playing a major roll. To incorporate the boys more, they may also sometimes sing the anthem of Saint Stephen and wear tall hats and carry star staffs. Lussekatter buns, dough made with saffron and very tasty they are too, (see below recipe) are also handed out and many processions are taken to local hospitals as a sign of Christmas is coming and a reminder that giving is important at this time of year.

In Scandinavia each village has its own Saint Lucia procession on December 13th, where a girl is chosen to be Lucia, she is attended by many other young girls. Each wearing a long white robe and a red sash. Lucia wears a crown of branches and four Advent candles, having to walk very carefully, some processions now used electric candles instead and all the other white robed girls carry a single candle with both hands.  The procession leads to the church and Christmas carols are often sung afterwards.   The lyrics typically include words associated with light and dark.  See the above You tube clip, the lyrics are in Swedish but each Scandinavian country has its own, all are however sung to the same tune.  Below are the Norwegian lyrics and English translation.  Again the theme of light and dark.

Sankta Lucia (Norwegian Lyrics)
Svart senker natten seg i stall og stuer.
Solen har gått sin vei, skyggene truer.
Inn i vårt mørke hus stiger med tente lys,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia!
Natten er mørk og stum. Med ett det suser
i alle tyste rom som vinger bruser.
Se på vår terskel står, hvitkledd med lys i hår,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia!

Saint Lucia (English translation)
Black night is falling in stables and homes.
The Sun has gone away, the shadows are threatening.
Into our dark house enters with lit candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia!
The night is dark and silent; suddenly a rush
in all quiet rooms, like the waving of wings.
See, at our threshold stands, dressed in white with lights in her hair,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia!

Today is the 5th recipe of our 7 made for Christmas, although not cookies, they come under the heading of small cakes and are dough (yeast) based.  These saffron buns are great drunk with hot chocolate or gløgg (mulled wine, see yesterdays post). They are tasty as they are or eaten with a bit of naughty butter! Traditionally raisins are used but you could substitute them for any dried fruit.  Signe Johansen, from Scandilicious Baking recommends trying them with sour cherries, oooh, I fancy that!  These saffron scented buns are always made in an 's' shape.

Lussekatter (Lucia bread)  - makes about 22

Oven temp180C/200F/GM 6

40g fresh yeast or 15g dried
500ml lukewarm whole milk
1/2 tsp saffron
2 tsp ground cardamon, optional
200g salted butter
1kg plain flour, plus some for dusting
100g caster sugar
75g raisins, plus some for decorating
1 egg

♥  Pre heat the oven.

♥  Melt butter and put to one side.

♥  Dissolve the yeast with the warm milk, then add the saffron and stir till the mixture is an even yellow colour.

♥  Add melted butter to mixture.

♥  In a different bowl sift flour and salt, cardamon if using,  sugar and raisins.

♥  Pour yeast mix into the dry ingredients and mix until the dough comes away from the sides cleanly.

♥  Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10 mins, do not let it get too sticky.

♥  Place dough back in bowl, cover with a little greased cling film and allow to prove for one and a half hours at room temp.

♥  Knead dough gently and make into 22 equal pieces.

♥  Roll each piece into a sausage shape and then form into 's' shapes, or any shape you desire.  (See photograph.)  Add a few extra raisins on each one.

♥  Place saffron buns on a lined and greased baking tray, cover with a tea towel and let rise again for about thirty mins.

♥  Brush each bun with a beaten egg and bake in oven for approx 20-25 mins or until golden brown.

♥  Allow to cool and devour!

Happy Saint Lucia Day to you all!

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