|The prepped dough for our St Lucy's Day breakfast.|
Braided in a circle like this it is called "St. Lucy's Crown."
Once baked, I'll drizzle it with icing before serving.
St. Lucy day is one of my favorite holidays that we have added this year. Although widely celebrated in other countries (particularly Sweden), it is not traditional in my part of the world. I don't know anyone else personally who celebrates it, but it is such a delightful holiday I'm not sure why not.
St. Lucia's was a 3rd century Christian Martyr under Diocletian. As the story goes, she was born to wealthy parents but her father died when she was 5. After God answered her prayer for her mother to be healed of a long term illness, Lucia sought--and received--her mother's permission to distribute much of their wealth to the suffering Christians. Lucia did much of this with her own hand, delivering food to the Christians hiding in the catacombs. As she wanted to carry as much as possible to them, she devised a crown with candles on it to leave both hands free to carry food. Denounced as a Christian by a rejected suitor, she was martyred in Sicily around 310AD, at about the age of 27.
Traditionally the celebration of St. Lucy's day starts early in the morning as the eldest daughter in the family dresses as St. Lucy in a white gown and red sash. She wears a crown of ligonberry set with seven lighted candles, as St. Lucy did. Younger daughters are her handmaids, also dressed in white with a crimson sash but instead of a crown with candles they carry a single candle. The daughters serve coffee or mulled wine and a special yeast bread, called "St. Lucy's Crown," to their parents in bed, to commemorate St. Lucy bringing food to the Christians.
Given the ages involved we did not do real candles. Someday, maybe. We didn't actually do fake ones either, mainly because I completely forgot to buy any. It turned out that the greenery I had for the crowns had white berry bunches, sooooo those were the "candles" this year. Fortunately I hadn't mentioned anything about candles--real or otherwise-- to the girls, so there was no disappointment on their end. We'll do something more fancy next year.
The bread is quite similar to cinnamon rolls, except instead of being flavored with raisins/cinnamon it is flavored with oranges. This gave me the idea to use a trick I'd learned years ago on cinnamon rolls. I made the dough ahead of time, braided it, and put it in the freezer. The night before St. Lucy's Day I unwrapped it, put it on a pan, and put the pan in the (cold) oven overnight. I set a timer for the oven early the next morning and went to bed. Overnight the braided loaf thawed and rose, and sometime much earlier than I cared to get up, the oven turned itself on and began baking. By the time my alarm went off the next morning, the bread was almost done and the house smelled amazing.
Given the ages involved, I got up early and got the plates ready. I woke the girls up, helped them get dressed, handed out the plates and the crowns and the mugs of coffee half-filled (lots of trepidation on that last one....). Then I hurried back to bed and pretended to have been asleep all along--and completely astonished--as "St. Lucia" and her "handmaid" brought us breakfast in bed. My guess is it'll be a few years before St. Lucia is old enough to take over, but in the meantime, the more authentic we make it the more excited they'll be about independence next year. It's the long game. I can wait.
The nice breakfast was the main event of the day this year, but next year I would love to have another family or two over and have a Swedish feast. I'm thinking meatballs, ligonberry jam, a St. Lucy's Crown for dessert (probably coffee cake, so it isn't exactly the same as breakfast). We could do a procession leading up to the feast, and have the children serve. Or, perhaps, the kids could put on a play about Saint Lucy's life. There are also traditional songs to go with the holiday, which I didn't have a chance to learn or teach this year. But that is okay. The beautiful thing about family traditions is that they can be added onto gradually, and every stage is special.
Have you ever celebrated Saint Lucia's Day? If so, what did you do?