Lucia-dagen on December 13, or Lucy’s Day, isn’t exactly a heavily celebrated day in America, but in Scandinavia it’s an important part of the Christmas celebrations. Lucia and Lucy are derivatives from the Latin word for light, and bringing light to the dark season may be the most important part of the celebrations. To most Scandinavians, candles, beautiful choirs and saffron spiced pastries sweetened with nuts and raisins are a must on this December day.
Lucia of Syracause (283-304), also known as Saint Lucy, and in Italy and Scandinavia (where Lucia is most celebrated) as Santa Lucia, is apparently the source of these celebrations. Legend says Lucia brought food and clothing to Romans forced to hide underground due to religious believes. To be able to see while walking the dark tunnels, and to keep both hands free to carry her offerings, she wore a white gown and a crown of candles on her head. Lucia was eventually martyred for her controversial prophetic statements, but her legend lives on.
Today’s Lucia varies in age but is always dressed in white, wearing a crown of candles on her head. She appears in homes, schools, hospitals, retirement homes, et cetera, followed by a train of carol singing boys and girls (or men and women). The girls in the train are also dressed in white (holding their own candle) and the boys are dressed in white (holding a gold star) or dressed as little Santas or gingerbread men.
Another legend says Lucia holds the secret to the identity of future husbands, so for anyone curious of their own romantic faith, watch out for Lucia and ask her who the lucky man could be.
The old Julian calendar marked Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year – on December 13. This provided an additional reason for celebrations with extra candles as a reminder of brighter times to come. According to today’s calendar we have to wait until December 21 for the shortest day before the turn for longer days.
gluten free scones with saffron, nuts and raisins
½ cup sweet rice flour
½ cup sorghum flour
½ cup tapioca starch
½ cup potato starch
½ cup coconut palm sugar
¼ cup flax meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon guar gum
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold butter (1 stick)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped almonds
½ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
0.5-1 gram saffron
In a small bowl, mix heavy cream, eggs and saffron with a fork and set aside.
In a large bowl, blend together sweet rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, palm sugar, flax meal, baking powder, baking soda, guar gum and salt.
Cut butter into small cubes and with your hands, rub it into the dry ingredients until coarse crumbles are formed.
Mix in nuts and raisins, saving some nuts to put on top later.
Add egg and cream mixture and knead until incorporated.
Shape dough into a ball and place it on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Flatten ball to about 10 inches/25 cm wide and with a sharp knife, cut into 10-12 pieces. Move each piece outward to leave some space between them.
Sprinkle with saved nuts and bake at 300F/150C for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.
Black Plates by Hasami Porcelain from Tortoise General Store in Venice, CA.
Photography by Philip Blankenship.