December 13 is the Feast of Santa Lucia. I discussed it during my presentations, and this photo is from one of my Southern Heritage Southern Living cookbooks. It describes the holiday:
On her feast day the eldest daughter in each family dresses in a white dress with a red sash, and wears an evergreen wreath with seven lighted candles on her head. She (very carefully) carries coffee and buns to each family member in his or her room. Many schools, offices, and communities sponsor Lucia processions in which carol are sung and everyone thanks the Queen of Light for bringing hope during the darkest time of the year.
In Scandinavia they have up to 20 hours of darkness at this time of year, so I can see how everyone would thank the Queen of Light! In my research I also learned that the Feast is celebrated more in the US in some ways than in Scandinavia, like St. Pat's Day and Ireland now. There is a town called Bishop Hill in IL that goes all out for this Feast. A great murder mystery is set there from Sara Hoskinson Frommer - Witness in Bishop Hill. Sara is a lovely person - she's come to the library several times.
The traditional cookie associated with this Feast is the Pepperkakor. I served it during my talks, and we all put it in our palms, and pressed down with one finger to see if it would break in 3 equal parts. If it did, we got our wishes for the year. During my 8 talks, I think I got this about 1/2 the time, so I'm guessing I get 1/2 my wishes!
A Swedish woman in one of the audiences told me that her favorite recipe for the Swedish Ginger Cookies is from the 1966 Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies volume. Here's the recipe:
Cream 1 cup butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Add 1 egg; beat till fluffy. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange peel, 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup, and 1 tablespoon water; mix. Sift 3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons soda, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon cloves. Stir into creamed mixture; chill.
On lightly floured surface, roll to 1/8-thickness. Sprinkle dough with granulated sugar; press in lightly with rolling pin. Cut with floured scalloped, or diamond, cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Top each with toasted blanched almond. Bake at 375 F for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pan. Makes about 8 dozen cookies.