Saint Lucia, festival of light in Scandinavia

Saint Lucia, celebrated on December 13, marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavia. Called Lucia in Sweden, Luciadag in Denmark, Lussia in Norway .... Lucia is a first name coming from the Latin, lux, lucis, which means light.

Traditionally, it was an important feast throughout Western Christianity in honour of Lucia of Syracuse, who suffered martyrdom at the beginning of the fourth century for embracing the Christian faith.

In Norway, the tradition of Saint Lucia was of a different origin. The Norwegians must have liked to scare each other more because the Lussi was a troll. As the night was long and dark, it was necessary to barricade oneself and especially not to work, otherwise Lussi would take revenge. She was particularly fond of polite children, who had to be watched especially on that night. The animals would start talking that night, and they had to be given extra food. The wicked Lussi then became the charming girl of light and joined the traditional stream celebrated today. 

Light is therefore in the spotlight during this celebration, which is supposed to take place during the darkest and longest night of winter (initially that of the winter solstice).

A young girl elected "Lucia", walks in front of a procession of women who are all dressed in white with a red cloth belt, the Lucia with a crown of candles and the other girls with a candle in their hands.

The candles represent the fire that refuses to take Saint Lucia's life at the stake or, according to popular belief, the means to protect oneself from the evil spirits that were particularly active that night.

The women sing a song by Lucia as they enter the room; the melody is that of the Neapolitan song Santa Lucia, but where the Neapolitan version describes the beautiful view from the Borgo Santa Lucia district of Naples, the various Scandinavian versions speak of the light with which Lucia defeats the dark.

At the end of the song, the procession continues with Christmas carols or other songs about Lucia.

This festival is therefore an opportunity to meet in public places, schools, kindergartens, companies ... In the streets, young girls dressed in Lucia parade and distribute coffee and buns with saffron and ginger: the lussekatter.

Recipe for 12 pieces

200 ml milk
2 pinches of saffron pistils
420 gr flour
15 gr fresh yeast
80 gr sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 egg
100 gr butter room temperature
80 gr raisins rehydrated in water
1 yolk for gilding

Heat the milk and add the saffron pistils. Film and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
Add the crumbled yeast, egg, flour, sugar, salt, cardamom and turmeric.
Knead at low and then medium speed for 7-8 minutes.
Add the butter cut into small cubes gradually, always kneading until the butter is incorporated into the dough.
Film and knead for 1.5 hours or more depending on room temperature.
Divide the dough into 12 portions, roll each portion into a long sausage. Form S's by placing 2 grapes at the ends of the sausage.
Place the buns on a baking sheet and leave to rise for another 30-45 minutes.
Bake at 180° in a preheated oven for 20 minutes.