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Yesterday my children and I celebrated the Swedish holiday to honor Santa Lucia; the saint who you may recognize as a woman with long blond locks, wearing a wreath as a crown and decorated with lit candles. If you have never heard of Santa Lucia don’t feel bad– I had never even heard of this holiday saint until last year, and it wasn’t until this past week that I took a real interest in learning the origins. 

What literally sparked my enthusiasm was a good friend of mine, who threw a fabulous Christmas party this past weekend with Santa Lucia as the theme (and she even made a guest appearance!). After having this very warming experience, I jumped at the opportunity to use this as a teaching tool for my girls. We spent the afternoon learning the history, listening to traditional Santa Lucia music, got artsy through drawing/coloring, and made bread. I wanted to share this delicious recipe with you (that I converted to make vegan) because it is just SO YUMMY. In fact, it is already gone, and I’m going to have to make another loaf lol.

While Santa Lucia is a major celebration in Sweden, its roots are really in Sicily. It is speculated on how this tradition spread to Sweden and there is no definite answer. Some say that sailors brought the legend with them after witnessing the festivals in Sicily, while others believe that Christians had their hand in broadening the story of this saint. Either way, it is a fun holiday that adds that extra sparkle to the season. On December 13th, the oldest daughter awakens early, dresses in a special white dress, and ties a red ribbon around her waist. She places a wreath on top of her head adorned with 6-8 candles. If she has sisters they too dress up in white with red sashes, but only the eldest gets the privilege of sporting the crown lol. Boys can also take part in this as well, however they may wear a pointed hat with 3 stars on it. All the children bring their parents breakfast in bed (I know, sweet right?) consisting of coffee and the Santa Lucia bread. They sing the traditional Swedish song, and this marks the beginning of the Christmas celebrations.

Related: Celebrating Santa Lucia With Children

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In Sweden, December 13th is supposedly the longest night of the year. So, Santa Lucia is in essence the light bringer, showering her warm glow in the dead of winter. The legend of Lucia is that she was a Christian, who convinced her wealthy mother to give away her money to the poor, and they apparently walked the streets giving away their riches. Unfortunately, this was still during the time of persecution of the Christians, so poor Lucia did not have a happy ending. I believe this is also why she was named a saint, because even through imprisonment she held onto her beliefs.

The bread is traditionally not to be eaten until the 13th, but can be eaten after that up until December 25th. The original recipe used animal products, and was also a roll out bread that you form into holiday shapes. I modified this recipe to make it vegan, while also sizing it down so that I could fit it into my bread maker lol. If you want to create shapes, simply make the dough in your bread maker, and then remove it to model (directions below!). Also, some of the traditional Santa Lucia breads use saffron, for not only taste but to create a yellow colored bread (representing the light).

On the recipe I had it said you could use cardamom with yellow food dye as a substitute, but I don’t use dyes so I skipped that and used the cardamom. I don’t know about you, but saffron can be pretty pricey and it’s not something I typically have on hand at all times. If you’re like me, you might have a better chance of having cardamom on your spice rack. If you decide to use saffron, just use a pinch. Otherwise, I hope you all enjoy this bread as much as my family did! Delish!

Related: DIY Christmas Advent Calendar

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Santa Lucia Vegan Bread

Ingredients:

Directions (standard bread loaf):

  1. In a small saucepan, melt Earth Balance and stir in cardamom and sugar. Remove from heat.
  2. In your bread maker, add the almond milk, followed by the melted butter, salt, and raisins. Stir.
  3. Add flour, and create a “well” to pour yeast into (do not let the yeast touch the liquid).
  4. Turn your bread maker on (I use the french bread setting) and kick back with some traditional Swedish music!

Directions (braided bread loaf):

1. Follow directions for the standard bread loaf (above), but turn your bread maker on dough setting. If you do not have a bread maker, you can do the same process in a large mixing bowl, working the mixture into a round dough ball. Place your dough ball in a warm spot to let rise for about an hour.

dough

2. Remove dough from bread maker (or large bowl). Cut and roll into three long strips.

dough2

3. Connect the dough at one end, and slowly braid the bread (just imagine it’s a long piece of hair lol).

dough3

4. Transfer to a sheet covered in parchment paper and connect loose ends to form a round wreath. Let rise for another 15 minutes, to give it time to puff up a bit more.

dough4

5. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until the dough is nicely browned on top.

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6. Before serving, brush melted Earth Balance butter on top.

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If you want to do a traditional celebration centered around Santa Lucia, place 4-8 candles on top of your bread (once it’s cooled completely!) and reflect on the light in the darkness….and make a wish or say a prayer for a happy new year!

santaluciabread

Santa Lucia Vegan Bread
Yields 18
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Ingredients
  1. 5 Tbsp Earth Balance butter
  2. 1/4 tsp cardamom
  3. 1/3 C sugar
  4. 1 C almond milk
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/2 C raisins
  7. 3 C unbleached white flour
  8. 2 tsp active dry yeast
Standard bread loaf
  1. In a small saucepan, melt Earth Balance and stir in cardamom and sugar. Remove from heat.
  2. In your bread maker, add the almond milk, followed by the melted butter, salt, and raisins. Stir.
  3. Add flour, and create a "well" to pour yeast into (do not let the yeast touch the liquid).
  4. Turn your bread maker on (I use the french bread setting) and kick back with some traditional Swedish music!
Braided bread loaf
  1. Follow directions for standard bread loaf (above), but turn your bread maker on dough setting. If you do not have a bread maker, you can do the same process in a large mixing bowl, working the mixture into a round dough ball. Place your dough in a warm spot so it can rise for an hour.
  2. Remove dough from bread maker (or large bowl). Cut and roll into three long strips.
  3. Connect the dough at one end, and slowly braid the bread (just imagine it's a long piece of hair lol).
  4. Transfer to a sheet covered in parchment paper and connect loose ends to form a round wreath. Let rise for another 15 minutes, to give it time to puff up a little more.
  5. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, until the dough is nicely browned on top.
  6. Before serving, brush melted Earth Balance butter on top.
Beautifully Bohemian https://www.beautifullybohemian.com/wordpress/

What traditions do you celebrate during the holidays? Share in the comments below!

randi

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2 comments

Reply

This bread looks so beautiful and I loved reading about the holiday saint! Great post, thanks for sharing! Pinned 🙂

Reply

Thank you Erica!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it- hope you get a chance to make this holiday treat before Christmas!

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