Christmas Traditions: Santa Lucia

Christmas Traditions: Santa Lucia

December 11, 2012 | Barbara's Blog

Christmas is slowly approaching and as a part of Design2Sells international team I would like to share some Swedish Christmas traditions. On December 13th we celebrate Santa Lucia who was a 4th century Christian martyr born in Sicily. Lucia symbolizes goodness and light. In the middle ages, December 13th fell on the shortest day of the year. In Sweden the winter is a dark time where the sun is not up for many hours. In the northernmost parts of Sweden the sun doesn’t rise at all during the darkest winter months.


The Santa Lucia tradition is played out most often in schools, churches and work places before the dawn. A lucky girl is chosen to represent Lucia and is dressed in a long white gown with a red ribbon around her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Nowadays young school children use battery powered light bulbs as candles instead of real candles to prevent fire accidents. In the procession Lucia is followed by similarly dressed girls (tärnor) each one carrying a candle in their hands. The boys wear a tall pointed hat carrying a star wand. They are called Star Boys (stjärngossar). The girls sing “Santa Lucia” (in Swedish of course) and then the boys sing “Staffan was a farm-worker” (Staffan var en stalledräng). Once the singing is over, the procession and its observers enjoy coffee and saffron-flavored buns called lussekatter.

Whoever wants to take the challenge of baking Swedish Lucia Buns (lussekatter) here is the recipe:

50 g (preferable fresh) yeast
1 g saffron
500 mL milk
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
200 g margarine
6 cups flour
+ additional flour for kneading

1 egg
3 Tablespoons milk

Set the oven to 225 degrees Celcius (450 degrees Farenheit). Melt the butter and mix with the milk. Put the yeast in a bowl and pour over the butter-milk (make sure it’s 37 C (98 degrees Farenheit). Add salt and sugar and then the remaining ingredients. Leave the dough for at least 30 minutes. Shape the buns like the ones I have drawn, tuck in the ends, and put a raisin in each end. Place the buns on a cookie sheet that has been buttered or covered in parchment paper. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise again until double in size, about 30 minutes. Make the glaze by beating one egg with 3 Tablespoons milk. Brush the tops of the buns with the glaze just prior to baking. Put them in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack. Enjoy!

lucia pictures


Images from skola.gavle/ noeltoutelannee.tumblr/ yousigma


By: Emilia Lepistö


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