Serves: Makes ~30 buns
Approx cost: €3.75 (Main cost is the saffron)
Approx calories (per bun): 115
Approx preparation and cooking time: 2 hours
Happy Saint Lucy’s Day everyone. Today’s post is all about this celebration, in the cold, dark December. A long, long time ago, it was commonly believed in Scandinavia that the 13th of December was the longest night of the year (and thusly the shortest day) hence the decision to pick this day as the feast day for this saint, although as it turns out, according to later discovered discrepancies, this is not actually the case.
It was commonly believed in Scandinavia as late as the end of the 19th century that this was the longest night of the year, coinciding with Winter Solstice.
While this does not hold for our current Gregorian calendar, a discrepancy of 8 days would have been the case in the Julian calendar during the 14th century, resulting in Winter solstice falling on December 13. With the original adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century the disrepancy was 10 days and had increased to 11 days in the 18th century when Scandinavia adopted the new calendar, with Winter solstice falling on December 9.
The choice of 13 December as Saint Lucy’s day, however, obviously predates the 8 day error of the 14th century Julian calendar. This date is attested in the pre-Tridentic Monastic calendar, probably going back to the earliest attestations of her life in the 6th and 7th centuries, and it is the date used throughout Europe.
Though, you may be wondering, who is this Saint Lucia, and why is such a day celebrated somewhere as secular as Sweden? Wikipedia to the rescue once again!
Saint Lucy (283–304), also known as Saint Lucia, was a wealthy young Christian martyr who is venerated as a saint by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. Her feast day in the West is 13 December; with a name derived from lux, lucis “light”, she is the patron saint of those who are blind. Saint Lucy is one of the very few saints celebrated by members of the Lutheran Church among the Scandinavian peoples, who take part in Saint Lucy’s Day celebrations that retain many elements of Germanic paganism.
Saint Lucy is one of seven women, aside from the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. Hagiography tells us that Lucy was a Christian during the Diocletian persecution. She consecrated her virginity to God, refused to marry a pagan, and had her dowry distributed to the poor. Her would-be husband denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Syracuse, Sicily. Miraculously unable to move her or burn her, the guards took out her eyes with a fork. In another version, Lucy’s would-be husband admired her eyes, so she tore them out and gave them to him, saying, “Now let me live to God”.
The celebration in Swedish churches is usually lovely (except for one year when they tried to make it really modern and “new-age”), and for as long as I’ve known my wife we try to get up early every December the 13th to watch the service live on Swedish TV. While many schools and churches have their own ceremonies each year, the televised one usually changes each time – you can see a video from one a few years ago below, as well as enjoying the traditional “Sankta Lucia” song!
Traditional food for the feast of Saint Lucy in Sweden are these little saffron buns, called “Lussebullar”, which literally translates to “Lucy Buns”. They are often eaten throughout advent, though especially today, so if you happen to have a few pinches of saffron at home, bake up a batch, and celebrate the feast day of the patron saint of light (among other things… salesmen too apparently!). Have a great day everyone! 🙂
- 625g Flour
- 3 decilitres Milk
- 100g Caster Sugar
- 100g Butter
- 1 Egg + 1 Egg to glaze
- 1 heaped tablespoon dried Yeast
- 2 pinches of Saffron
- Raisins to decorate
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and add in the milk and the sugar. Heat it until it’s warm to the touch, stirring all the while to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove the milk/butter mixture from the heat. Place the yeast into a bowl and spoon in a few tablespoons of the warm liquid. Mix well with a fork or small whisk and set aside for 15 minutes or so, for the yeast to properly activate. Meanwhile, add the egg and saffron into the remaining liquid in the pan and mix well.
- Place the flour into a large bowl and then transfer the yeast mixture, and the milk from the pan into the bowl with the flour. Mix well to combine the liquid and flour into a dough, and then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.
- Return to the bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Allow to prove for 30 minutes. Transfer the dough again to a clean surface and divide into approximately 30 pieces. Roll out the pieces into a sausage shape, about 30 cms long and form a back to front “S” shape (though much more spiralled at the top and bottom, as shown below).
- Place the “lussebullar” onto a non-stick baking tray, and gently press a raisin into each end of the “S”, in the centre of the spiral. Cover with a clean cloth again and allow to prove for about an hour, until they’ve doubled in size. Meanwhile, turn the oven on to about 230 degrees Celsius to pre-heat.
- When the buns have doubled in size, break the other egg into a bowl and whisk to blend. Brush the buns lightly with the beaten egg and then place into the oven, baking for about 6 minutes, or until golden brown (and a bit lighter than this :p). Enjoy! 🙂