Julbord, a three course meal, is served come Christmas in Sweden. The first dish is usually fish, often pickled herring. As second, cold cuts (including Christmas ham) along with sausages are served and the third course is often meatballs and a potato casserole called Janssons frestelse.
For dessert, rice pudding is popular, but there’s another treat for which the Swedes are known to make around this time: Lussekatter.
Light and fluffy, these saffron buns are a fun to make treat for St. Lucia’s Day and beyond!
Sweet yeast rolls are often seen in Sweden, but at Christmastime they take on a new shape and meaning.
They are sweet and saffron gives them a beautiful golden color that is accented by dark raisins. They are shaped into an “S” and then baked into their final buttery form. The name, Lussekatter, means “Lucia’s cats” and comes from the way the scrolled buns looks like a cat’s tail and the fact that they are common to serve on Saint Lucia’s Feast Day in December. Each bun is shaped into an S-shape, which is supposed to resemble a curled up cat, and then two raisins are added to represent the eyes. Nobody knows for sure the origins of the shape and the connection with Saint Lucia, but it seems that they were originally called djävulskatter (the devil’s cats).
St. Lucia has been celebrated in Italy since her martyrdom. But now-a-days, her feast day is widely celebrated across Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe.
When Christian missionaries came to Scandinavia, the story of a kind girl who brought light and warmth held much appeal to a people who had to do with long, dark, cold, winters. In Scandinavian countries, St. Lucia’s Feast Day became a festival of light, pointing to the arrival of the Light of Christ on Christmas Day.
As we know, her feast day is celebrated on December 13th. Her celebrations are one of the highlights of the Swedish calendar and the Saint Lucia procession is truly magical, so do try and see one if you can.
Traditionally, the oldest daughter dresses up in long white dress with a red sash and wears a crown or wreath with candles on her head. She carries a tray of a warm drinks, cookies, and saffron buns to her family and friends who are celebrating in the house.
Now-a-days lussekatter are enjoyed throughout Advent, a particularly nice time to visit Sweden as the julmarknader (Christmas markets) are quaint, especially if you are lucky enough to be there when they are covered with snow!