I am so glad I remembered that today is Santa Lucia Day. Although St. Lucy (her name means "light," a nice concept in the dark depths of December) lived her short life and died a martyrlicious death on Sicily, she is most closely associated with marvelous traditions in Sweden, where they're experts at dealing with long, dark days. Get this: Tradition calls for the eldest daughter to dress up in a white gown (purity) with a red sash (martyrdom) and a green bay-leaf crown (life, etc.) topped with lit candles, and then she and her siblings (who also dress up as whimsical things like stars) bring coffee and baked goods to their sleeping parents! Don't you love the idea of the kids downstairs lighting flames on Sis's head and carrying up a tray while their parents slumber peacefully? Truly, Sweden must be the utopia they claim!
Now, here's the, um, crowning irony: Year after year, I entreat the Child, whose head is crowned with Nordic-worthy blonde tresses, to re-enact this ritual (under my demented supervision). And she says--no! I would have killed for the opportunity to swan about the house holding a pastry tray with an inferno on my head when I was a slip of a girl...(at which point in my rant, Child will point out, "But Mom...you were incredibly weird.")
Oh well. If I can't light my daughter's head on fire, I can at least bake lussekatter, or "Lucia cats." These are S-shaped saffron buns, like these made by a cute Swedish blogger.
Amid all the rich iconography of the day, I haven't been able to figure out the significance of either the "S" shape, or the "cats." St. Lucy is often shown holding her eyeballs on a plate (while still having another pair in her head), and the raisins could be evocative of her allegedly gouged-out peepers--but why cats? Pure fancy, perhaps--based on the resemblance of saffron buns to twisty, golden and delicious creatures like, say, Charlie:
I will provide an update on the making of the buns if they come out half as nice as Charlie. And I will again offer to let the Child have a bash at Lucia, but I think she would prefer gory martyrdom.
Image: A Lucia Procession, by Carl Larsson (1908)