Santa Lucia Day (December 13) celebrates the life of Saint Lucy and light for the longest night of the year (under the old Gregorian calendar this was the Winter Solstice). Lucia thus shines as a symbol of hope and light during the dark time of the year as we turn our focus inward.
The traditional celebration of this day usually begins before dawn, with the oldest girl in the family preparing delicious saffron buns for the family. She often wears a white dress with a red sash and wears a wreath of candles on her head. Boys often accompany the procession as "star boys." While this festival is nowadays predominantly celebrated in Sweden, the origin is Sicilian. Saint Lucy is said to have brought food to Christians hiding in the catacombs. Wearing a candle-lit wreath to light the way left her hands free to carry a tray filled with food.
The class worked together and baked Lucia wreaths that were delivered (with singing accompaniment) to the kindergarten and grades classes on December 14.
Santa Lucia Bread
2 packages (or 4-1/2 tsp.) dry yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 c. warm water
6 Tbsp. butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten (Eggs may be accidentally omitted & all will be well still!)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cardamon
1-1/4 cup of milk, scalded
5 c. flour
1/4 c. dried cranberries
Grated rind of 1 lemon
In a small pot dissolve yeast in water and add sugar. In another pot add butter and salt to scalded milk, allowing the butter to melt. Sift flour and cardamon into a large bowl. Make an indent and add eggs. Add yeast-sugar mixture, then milk butter mixture. Form dough. Let dough rise, covered, in a warm spot for 1-1/2 hours. Divide dough, creating two long strands of dough. Twist strands, creating a round wreath. Place wreath on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. Bake at 350-375 F for 25-30 minutes. When cooled, you may want to top with a powdered sugar glaze, dried cranberries and lemon rind—especially so if you accidentally omitted the eggs!