This is another one of my favorite Winter Holidays. Santa Lucia Day is on December 13th and 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). This day usually begins before dawn, with the oldest girl in the family rising to make St. Lucia buns (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lussekatt) and bring these to her parents. She typically wears white, sometimes with a red sash and a wreath of candles on her head. Other girls in the family are dressed in white as attendants and the boys are dressed as “star boys” with pointy star hats. I believe in many Scandinavian countries this day begins the Christmas season.
Some stories say Lucia was known as a medieval saint who brought food and drink to a province of Sweden during a period of famine. Other stories point out the Sicilian origins of Lucy and tell how she brought food to the poor souls living in the catacombs. At any rate, Santa Lucia is seen as a symbol of hope and light during the dark of Winter, and her day is still celebrated in Scandinavian countries, Italy and other countries today. Wikipedia has a pretty good entry about this day here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy%27s_Day
There is a traditional Swedish song associated with Santa Lucia Days and you can see one English translation here: http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/santa-lucia-day-song-and-saying-why-its-a-festival-of-light/
There are also many YouTube videos of the Santa Lucia Day public processions. Here is one:
Some simple ways to celebrate:
Make buns of course! Here is the recipe I use, although not traditional due to the lack of saffron:
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon turmeric for color
Stir all of these things together in a large bowl.
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs , beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 cups of flour to make a soft dough
Knead; keep the dough on the soft side. Add currents or raisins if you like those. Shape into S shaped buns, let rise until doubled and then bake at 400 degrees until golden. Once cooled, you can frost them or just eat with honey butter.
Check out some of the ideas here:http://storybookwoods.typepad.com/storybook_woods/2008/12/saint-lucia-unit.html
How about these adorable Santa Lucia dolls? These are so cute! http://rosylittlethings.typepad.com/posie_gets_cozy/2006/12/santa_lucia_dol.html