I have been a huge fan of the American Girl Series since I was 10. One of my favorite girls was Kirsten. Kirsten is a Swedish immigrant who moves to America in 1854. In one of the books (Kirsten's Surprise American Girl Store) we learn about the Swedish tradition, Saint Lucia. On December 13th the oldest daughter in the household dresses as Saint Lucia and brings Lucia rolls and a warm drink (traditionally hot cocoa or coffee) to her parents in bed.
Below are the sewing instructions to make your very own gown out of a large bed sheet, a paper Lucia crown. My sister was wonderful enough to make both my daughters the gowns this year using the instructions below.
Here is a copy of the crown (my daughters needed 2 1/2 printed for their heads.)
Here is another Lucia crown where you color, cut out and add a head band(preferably green strip of paper ) a Tomte (a Swedish Elf) and a game to play
This year my daughters school is talking about Holidays involving lights, and Saint Lucia is one of them. I have made Saint Lucia rolls every year since I read the book and so I offered to come into the class and talk about the Holiday. I am bringing in sample sizes of the rolls (the recipe is available below)
Saint Lucia Buns
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 package (1 1/4 teaspoons) dry active yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron ( a spice you can find at World Market, Trader Joes and Whole foods)
2 3/4 cup of Flour
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 more egg (used later)
1 tablespoon water (used later)
1) Warm the milk in a sauce pan over low heat. Cut the butter into small pieces and stir. When it's thoroughly mixed turn the heat off and set it aside.
2) Measure lukewarm water (around 115- 120 degrees) and sprinkle yeast in. Stir it well and set aside for 5 minutes until it looks like this:
Notice the foamy look between the "1/3 and 1/2 mark" (please note I doubled the recipe while making this to make more buns)
3) add milk and melted butter to the yeast. Stir in sugar, egg, salt and saffron. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and stir until smooth.
4) Add enough of the remainig floud so that you can shape the dough into a ball. Save some of the flour for kneading the dough later.
5) After 5 to 10 minutes of kneading the dough you should have a smooth ball, like this:
6) I usually have to pre-heat my oven to the lowest temperature (somewhere around 170) to have my dough rise properly. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl, covering the top. You can also try to have it rise in a warm area for 45 minutes to an hour. (if you put it in the oven, make sure to turn the oven off before placing it in and to leave a crack to let some air escape or you will be baking your bread!)
7) Punch the dough down and divide it into 6 sections. take one of the smaller 6 balls and divide that into two ropes. Make an X with the dough and circle them inward (like shown)
8) place the buns 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet, cover with the towel again and let the buns rise for 30-45 minutes.
9) When they have risen again pre-heat the oven to 350 degress. Mix the extra egg and water with a fork lightly and brush over the tops of the buns. Decorate with a raisin.
10) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
A Simple story of Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia lived far away in southern Italy in the third century AD. After seeing her mother miraculously heeled. Lucia said she would not ever get married and instead give all of the money she had to the church and help the poor. Lucia would go out on the coldest night of the year (December 13th) in Sweden and bringing sweet buns and hot drinks to the people who were starving. It is said she had a wreath with candles on her head so that she could carry the tray of food. After Lucia died in 303 AD she was declared a Saint for all of her work.
Now a day in the early morning of December 13th the oldest daughter in the family gets to dress up as Saint Lucia. She wears a long white robe (that symbolizes purity/saintliness), a red sash (symbolizes her death), and a wreath of lingonberry leaves in her hair. Candles (now battery operated) are set in the wreath to symbolized banishing the dark. She brings her parents a Lucia Bun and a hot drink in bed; we do this to remind ourselves to be good like Lucia.
Today most cities in Sweden appoint a Lucia every year. Schools elect a Lucia and her maids among the students. They have a big parade and visit shopping malls, old people's homes and churches, singing and handing out gingerbread.
Nowadays boys take part in the procession as well, playing different roles associated with Christmas. Some may be dressed in the same kind of white robe, but with a cone-shaped hat decorated with golden stars, called star boys.