DECEMBER 13 and it's time for LUCIA in Sweden.
Lucia, the bearer of light, is the girl with the candles in her hair who wears a long white gown. She's followed by her maids with candles in their hands, bringing light and hope at the darkest time of year.
Every Swede has partaken in a Lucia parade at some point, usually in school singing the traditional songs. For the school parades there was lots of practice, mostly for the songs, but also to rehearse where to walk and where to stand. At the actual event, it wasn't uncommon for a kid to faint as it was early in the morning and you had to stand still for a long time.
At home early in the morning on the 13th we would dress up in all white, carry candles, and serve coffee and “lussebulle” (saffron flavored buns) and ginger snaps.
Anki's most memorable Lucia festival took place on horseback. Her riding academy in Stockholm organized an impressive parade of Lucia and her maids and "stable boys" riding in a well-rehearsed choreographed pageant. First came Lucia on a white horse followed by 30 boys and maids on their horses and ponies. Although it was still dark and cold at 7AM, with the lights and the beautiful singing, it was all quite wonderful.
Here's a short video that explains the Lucia tradition and the celebration that continues to the present day:
A big reason why these traditions are still so popular in the north this time of year is that it can be so drab and dark. Usually there's no snow yet, and the candles bring the light. But along with that are the accompanying smells.
Lucia and the lights are vital, but the scent of baking and spices are what create the true holiday atmosphere. The spicy and warm smell of glögg warming, sweet bread lussebulle buns hot out of the oven, gingerbread cooling, oranges pricked with cloves. Cardamom, cinnamon stands out. Easy things to add to the winter holiday anywhere.
Here's how to make Lussebulle from magnuslundstrom.com.
Most years in our stores around Lucia, December 13, we serve glögg, a warm spiced wine. As Swedish tradition that's perfect when there's a bit of chill outside - warm and with smell of the spices... add some candles and clementines, instantly festive.
All of this helps against the dark and cold winters.
Here’s our favorite recipe for glögg. For a festive treat serve with almond and raisins in the cup and ginger snaps on the side.
Red or white wine glögg
- 1 bottle of red or white wine
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 18 whole cloves
- 8 whole cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 piece of ginger (approx. 1 inch)
- Lemon or orange peel
- Mix wine, sugar and spices, then heat.
- Turn off the heat when the sugar has melted.
- Cover and leave to stand for an hour.
- As the alcohol burns off, add 4oz. vodka or cognac.