Lucia is celebrated on the 13th of December.
Lucia is the maiden of light. She carries candles in her hair and she brings her Lucia maidens, star boys, little santa’s, ginger bread boys and girls with her. They sing traditional christmas songs.
In schools and at work places everybody has a little Lucia celebration. If you are lucky, a Lucia cortege would appear, but if not, people would just gather and drink glögg and eat saffron buns and ginger snaps.
Lucia is mostly celebrated in the morning. It has also become a tradition to scare the living daylight out of the Nobel price winners who would still be in Sweden (after the Nobel Price celebration on the 10th of december). A Lucia cortege would appear at their hotel rooms around 7 in the morning.
A while before December 13th, there are competitions all throughout the country, to find “this years” Lucia. For some people, this is a dead serious competition.
For many of us living abroad, this is a fun day. We try to have little “get togethers” with the traditional goodies. Here in New York, there is a big celebration on the saturday closest to Lucia. My family and I have it as a tradition to always attend. It kick starts the christmas feeling.
The Lucia celebration in New York…
Since the candles are real, there are buckets of water prepared just in case of a needed “quick dip” in some cold water.
There are always a bunch of little kids in the audience who also wants to be the Lucia. Boys and girls actually. That is ok, they just sit in their benches and sing a long. Really cute.
I always make big gingersnaps with holes for some pretty ribbons. Either I hang them on the wall or if they are smaller, they go on the christmas tree. I sometimes also make individual gingersnaps and put my guest’s name on them. They would then serve as “placement cards” for the dinner table.
Makes about 150 regular sized gingersnaps.
4 1/4 c. flour.
1 1/3 c. granulated sugar.
1/2 c. water.
1/4 c. light syrup (or molasses).
1/2 tbsp. ground cinnamon.
1/2 tbsp. ground dried ginger.
1/2 tbsp. ground cloves.
1/2 tbsp. ground cardamom (optional).
7 oz. of butter, cut into smaller cubes (a little less than 2 sticks, or 200 gr.)
2 tbsp. good cognac (optional).
2 tsp. baking soda.
1 egg (optional – not all traditional recipes includes an egg, but it is easier for the dough to “hold up” with an egg. I don’t use it though).
Let sugar, water and the spices come to a boil. Let cool down a little bit. Add the butter (and cognac).Mix the dough firmly. Add the flour mixed with the baking soda (add the egg) (save a little bit of the flour for rolling out the dough). Work the dough well. Let the dough sit in the fridge over night.
Take out the dough an hour before baking. Roll it out, little at a time. Be careful with adding too much flour while rolling the dough out. Too much flour makes the gingersnaps break/crack. Use cookie cutters for any shape you prefer. Roll the dough very thin. This way the cookies gets very light and crisp. Add cut out cookies to parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake in a 350F (about 175-180) oven. It would take about 7 minutes or until lightly starting to brown. Keep an eye on the cookies while baking. They burn very easily.
For Christmas we have these fantastic candles called “branch candles”. They are made by hand and really beautiful. My mom used to save every (and I mean EVERY) little last stump of candle just so that she could make candles at home, once a year.
The Lucia History;
In the old days (when we used the “old calendar”) it was thought that the darkest & longest day of the year was on the 13th of december. It is actually the 21st or the 22nd of december, but we still celebrate it on the 13th.
Lucia is believed to come from a saint from Siracusa in Sicily (Italy), the saint of light. It turns out to have very little to do with her even tough it fits the description with our Lucia bringing light into our houses. Instead it has old pageant traditions. It was believed, that during this longest and darkest day of the year, there were bad spirits and creatures out and about, luring in the woods and if you were not careful, they would also come into your house. To scare them away, one would have a “vaka” a wake all night before the 13th.
People would have parties that would include lot’s of drinking and eating. Alcohol was served. They stayed up all night until the morning of the 13th. This tradition has some connection to todays Lucia celebration. Young people would have parties the night before and stay up all night. In the morning they would head out to either participate with or enjoy a Lucia and her maidens.