holidaysLife in SwedenSankta LuciaSwedish Holidays

St. Lucia Didn’t Have a Cat, but Xmas Is Coming

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Or maybe she had – there’s no record of it, so we don’t really know. Lucia was killed in Syracuse in the year of 304, that is 1714 years ago. In Catholic countries, she has been revered as a saint on December 13, since the fifth century.

In Sweden – which is not Catholic – we still celebrate her by baking lussekatter – “Lucia’s cats” in December every year. A lussekatt is sweet wheat bun, often saffron-flavored, shaped as the letter S, with both ends curled up around a raisin. Like this:



I remember, from my early childhood, that my mother used to bake lussekatter every year on December 12, that is one day in advance – it was a tradition that mustn’t be ignored. They should be eaten at breakfast on December 13, St Lucia’s Day. Aah, such a sweet smell filled the house! She used to make double “cats”, by making two “S” of dough, one laid crosswise over the other with a fifth raisin in the middle. However, this shape is rarely seen today, maybe because it could be mistaken for a “curly” svastika. I don’t think she ever saw it that way; it was just a cat with four tails.

(With four tails? Sure. That’s logical: No cat has three tails. But one cat has one tail more than no cat. Thus, any cat can have four tails.)

My local grocery store has started to sell lussekatter already. I look at them with disgust – it’s one month early! It’s a devaluation, a destruction, of the Lucia tradition! It won’t be special to get a lussekatt and a gingerbread from Lucia’s bridesmaid in the early morning of St. Lucia’s Day, if we already have been eating them for a month! 

But it’s not unique in any way: stores are already full of Xmas ornaments, candles and plastic spruces. It won’t be anything special with Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – we’ve already had it for two months.

By the way – I couldn’t withstand the temptation – I bought a lussekatt the other day and took it home to enjoy with a large cup of black coffee. It didn’t taste like my mom’s. Nor was there much saffron flavor, just coloring. And there was only one raisin showing (but there was a second one inside, though). Sigh.

Editor’s note: Check out our lussekatt (or as I know them, lussebullar) recipe and make them for yourself!

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The Author



Thomas is a retired IT professional, who lives alone with his golden retriever Ziggy Stardust in a small townhouse in a small town in the southern half of Sweden. He has two grown-up kids and at least five grandkids – "as far as I know".

Thomas enjoys daily long walks with Ziggy in the forests around town, he loves cooking for his guests, and he likes to make things with his hands. He says he loves good food, good wine, people who smile and make him smile.

Having spent most of his life developing things, methods and organizations, he's passionately interested in all kinds of technology, natural science, politics,... anything that raises a problem, whether it can be solved or not. Consequently, he is consistently short of time.

While he was professionally active, he lived in San Francisco a few years, working as software engineer down in Silicon Valley. He claims that he did leave his heart in San Francisco, and is constantly planning to go back and pick it up. Quoting Hoagy Carmichael's Hong Kong Blues, he says "... every time I try to leave, sweet opium won't let me fly away... ...i.e. my opium is Sweden, my kids, my dog, my friends, my forest,... you know, I'm Swedish."