Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Scandinavian Christmas, Day 1

I'd like to welcome our very first guest blogger for the Scandinavian Christmas series - Kate.

Kate has been a good friend for many years and I'm so excited that she's participating in this series! Kate's blog, Coffee...Photos...Chocolate, is full of great photos and funny tidbits about life. She's also a great knitter, jewelry artist, yarn spinner and coffee drinker.

Kate is 75% Swedish: 50% from her mother's side and 100% from her dad's side. Her grandfather (morfar) was actually born in the motherland. She's spent her life celebrating December in true Swedish fashion: eating pepparkakor, drinking coffee and celebrating Santa Lucia day every December 13th.

Kate is going to share about St. Lucia day, so here she goes!

Hi everyone! I'm so glad Kathryn asked me to share about Santa Lucia Day!

Santa Lucia was originally an Italian saint who has been adopted by the Swedes. She is associated with the idea of light. In the middle ages, December 13th (Santa Lucia Day) fell on the shortest day of the year (otherwise known as the winter solstice). Though the winter solstice no longer falls on the 13th, the holiday has remained on this day.

It is tradition for the eldest girl of the house to get up very early before the sun rises and bring light to her household by wearing a crown of candles. She also brings food (usually pastries) to the family. The other way that Scandinavians celebrate St Lucia day is to have a pageant. Lucia leads the procession followed by her attendants and star boys singing traditional Santa Lucia songs. The most recognized and sung Lucia song is called, Natten Går Tunga Fjät, which translates to, Night Walks With a Heavy Step.

Growing up I celebrated Santa Lucia day 3 different ways. Even as a very young girl, I would dress up in the traditional white gown, red sash and crown of candles (battery operated) and bring pastries to my parents and brother while they were in bed. When I was in grade school I brought in pepparkakor cookies and told the story of Santa Lucia to all my class mates for 3 or 4 years and sometimes I was asked to share with other classes as well. In college I participated in the Lucia pageant at North Park University with many of my classmates and friends.

Below is a recipe for classic Swedish coffee cake called cardamom bread. Though many Swedes choose to have saffron rolls on Lucia day, my family always had cardamom bread instead.

For this recipe, the dough is made in a bread machine.

Cardamom Braids

4 cups bread flour

2 Teaspoons Yeast

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Tablespoon Ground Cardamom

1 and 1/4 cup lukewarm milk

1/2 cup Sugar

1/2 cup Melted butter

2 eggs (beaten separately) (one to add to the dough, one for brushing on top of the dough)

Put all ingredients into bread machine according to manufacture's directions, using the "dough" cycle. When cycle is complete, remove from bread machine and punch down dough, kneading to remove air bubbles. (you may have to add additional flour if dough is too sticky). Let dough rest for 10-15 minutes.

You can make 3 small braids, 2 large brads or 2 loaves. If you choose to make braids, divide section into 3rds or half depending on how many braids you'd like to make. If you are making loaves, this recipe yields 2 loaves so divide dough in half. If making braids, divide each section into thirds again.

Knead a little and then roll each section into a 12" rope.

Braid three ropes together on a lightly greased cookie sheet or other nonstick surface. Do the same with the other sections. Cover and let rise until double in size. If desired, you can brush brads with beaten egg or butter, and sprinkle with sugar and cardamom. If you do so, add right before putting in the oven.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes (loaf may take longer). If the top gets too brown before the bread is fully baked, cover the top with tin foil and put back in the oven at 3-5 minute increments using your best judgment.

Happy Santa Lucia day! Glad Lucia Dag!!!

Thanks Kate! Check out Kate's blog: Coffee...Photos...Chocolate to see her fun posts and great photos of Africa!


  1. Great post! Glad lucia to everyone!

  2. Glad Lucia to you too Hanna! Hope you ate plenty of lussekatter today! :)

  3. Very interesting. I wonder how an Italian Saint came to be in popular in Sweden, which is quite far. Perhaps there was a flux of Italians that moved into the area during that period?

    I bet that bread is wonderful. I love cardamom but don't use it enough.

  4. Any problem with me breaking with tradition and making a Cardamon Braid in January???