The Lucia celebration on December 13th is one of the most popular of Swedish Christmas Traditions. Here’s what YOU need to know!
For expats, maybe Lucia means sampling a delicious “Lussekatt”, those saffron coloured buns which line the shop windows. Or mabye it means preparing your child or teenager for the Lucia concert at their school. Whatever the case, if you have been invited to celebrate Lucia in Sweden, you will no doubt experience a beautiful tradition with all the sweetness that Christmas time has to offer…
Dark and light, cold and warmth… Harking back to life in village communities of old, the celebration of light in Sweden can be seen throughout December and it reaches its peak on the 13th, Saint Lucy’s Day, one of the rare Saint days celebrated in Sweden. The image of this light bearing, ethereal and mythical figure has brought warmth to the hearts of the people during the dark Swedish winters, and she has become the beacon for celebrations today.
White gowns & Candles
Today, every school, dagis, church and university in Sweden hosts a celebration and most have a Lucia procession on December 13. Children put on long white dresses with a wreath of candles in their hair. Wearing ‘light’ in their hair these days means a crown of electric candles! Just to be on the safe side:) The star boys wear white gowns, carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads. It can seem kind of strange at first but you do get used to it! Nowadays, a national Lucia is proclaimed each year and broadcast on TV. Swedes are not normally keen on this type of competition but they will make an exception for Lucia. Smaller towns will also chose their own Lucia. Candidates are presented in the local newspaper and receive much admiration from adoring families. At schools parents gather to watch their children sing traditional songs, including ‘Sankta Lucia’ with digital camera at the ready for the winning shots! Fika is also shared on Lucia whether at school, in the office or the workplace or with family at home. Lussekatt, the traditional Lucia buns, are eaten in handfuls! A coffee and/or glögg may also be enjoyed…
If you’re visiting Stockholm, or want to go somewhere special to watch a Lucia procession, Skansen is the place to be. Local churches should also have special celebrations on this day. Find out more on Stockholms Luciakonsert >
If you’re feeling in the mood for baking, why not try making these delicious buns at home thanks to Graphic Garden.
LUSSEKATTER – SAFFRON BUNS
What you need:
50 g (preferable fresh) yeast
1 g saffron
500 mL milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
200 g butter
6 cups flour + additional flour for kneading
3 Tablespoons milk
What to do:
Set the oven to 225 degrees Celsius (450 degrees Fahrenheit). 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 Fahrenheit). Add salt and sugar and then the remaining ingredients. Leave the dough for at least 30 minutes. Shape the buns like big S’s, tuck in the ends, and put a raisin in each end.
Place the buns on a baking 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!
Images thanks to: Cover: Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se Lucia girl: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se Building: Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se