“Så mörk är natten i midvintertid.
Men se, då nalkas Lucia.
Hon kommer, den goda, med ljuset hit.
Hon kommer med hälsning om julefrid.
Hon kommer med ljus i sin krona.”
Yesterday was Santa Lucia day – the celebration of light. It’s one of my favourite Swedish traditions. The origins is the story of Saint Lucy and marks the beginning of Christmastide. It always falls on the 13th December.
The legend of the martyr Saint Lucy is rather grim. During the Roman Empire, the Christians were being persecuted. Many hid in the catacombs, and Saint Lucy would venture down there with trays of food. As it was so dark, but in need of full use of her hands, she wore a candle lit wreath on her head to light up her way with her tray of food. She was later killed for refusing to marry a pagan.
Nowadays, we all get up super early and head to our church. Normally fighting through snow and frost and huddle up inside. We all pile in to the church and sit down in the pews. The church will be decorated beautifully and everyone seems happy, in spite the early rise. And in spite of having to sit so close to one and other. (Swedes don’t like to have sit close next to strangers.)
Then we patiently wait for Lucia to enter the church. Wearing a white dress (white representing innocence. Cheerful!) and a red sash (red symbolising the blood of martyrdom. Again, cheerful.), and a gold wreath/crown with candles on her head (the candles symbolises the fire that refused to take Saint Lucy’s life….Yep.), walking at the head of the procession.
And it gets me every time.
The Nordic countries have very little sunlight in winter.
And from the darkness that engulfs the church, suddenly this glorious light appears, gradually filling the space. The heat from the candles warming us.
And the singing. The beautiful hymns. Softly in the beginning and then progressively building in strength.
(Have a look and listen here)
This year I was invited to talk about Lucia at my daughter’s school. I dressed up in my white dress and crown, (yes, I have my own set!), brought extra white dresses and candles for our very own Lucia procession and gingerbread cookies.
My goodness. It was so beautiful. The kids were so curious and asked lots of questions like:
From “which candle is your favourite?” (Pointing to the candles in my crown)
“Is that your nightdress?” to “when are we eating the cookies?”
We all sang Lucia songs and ate the gingerbread cookies.
Because that’s the other thing about Lucia day. It’s a Feast and we eat. A lot.
Speaking of Feasts – I tried a new trifle recipe that went down very well with my friends that I’d like to share with you. It was so easy to make! I’ve tweaked a recipe my friend Erika shared with me.
Jessica’s Lucia Black Forest Trifle
Good quality custard
100g good quality chocolate
400 g brownie bites
50g Black cherry jam
About 100g Cherry brandy
300g cherries (pitted, if you can get them)
100g amaretti biscuits
400ml double cream
100g Toasted flaked almonds
1. Melt the chocolate, either in a microwave in short bursts or over a bowl of simmering water on the stove. Leave to cool but not to get too stiff.
2. Gently stir in your custard and mix the two together.
3. Now cut the brownies or chocolate cake into fairly thin slices and arrange in the bottom of the bowl. Spread one layer of cherry jam and then continue with the second layer of brownies and spread over more jam
4. Pour over the cherry brandy, then sprinkle over the cherries.
5. Put your amaretti biscuits into a bag and bash gently with a rolling pin until a coarse like sand consistency. Don’t worry if there’s smaller and bigger bits. The difference in texture will taste wonderful.
6. Sprinkle your amaretti sand over the cherries.
7. Now pour over your custard in an even layer.
8. Put some clingfilm over your trifle and leave to chill until just before serving.
10. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks, then smooth this over the custard.
11. Decorate with your toasted almond flakes, chocolate curls and cherries.