St. Lucy's Day is currently most often associated with Sweden, one of the celebrations of light in the midst of winter's darkness. Little Christmas, or the Feats of Saint Lucy, is a favorite advent celebration. In the early morning, the Lucia Bride, usually the youngest daughter, is dressed in a long white gown with a myrtle or bilberry crown and lighted candles. She awakens the family, often bringing coffee and tea, and braided Lucia twists, flavored with saffron and cardamon. After the family is served, she visits the barns, taking food to the animals.
In addition to the home celebration, the young girls attend services at the church dressed in their lighted crowns. St. Lucy represents the promise of the light in the darkness and the sun's return.
Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and those with visual challenges. Lucy was born in Syracuse, Sicily in the 3rd century. She was born to wealthy Christian parents and at an early age she secretly vowed to remain a virgin and serve God by helping others.
Her father died when she was young. When she came of age, her mother arranged her marriage to a pagan but Lucy rejected him. It was the time of the Diocletian persecutions and when her suitor denounced her as a Christian, she seemed destined to death by burning or life in the brothels. Her fate was to be martyred by a sword through her throat.
In another story she escapes the marriage by tearing her eyes out in frightful desperation. She is often depicted carrying her eyes on a tray.
Miraculously, her sight was restored and she was able to serve God and mankind as she has intended. She is celebrated for giving sight to the blind, food to the hungry, and light to the darkness. The name Lucy comes from the root word Lux, meaning light.
Herbs associated with St. Lucy's Day
Saffron Myrtle Dill Goldenrod Bilberry
St. Lucia's Saffron Braided Bread
I teaspoon saffron, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes. Let cool
2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
4 T softened butter
3 T sugar
1 teaspoon salt
I cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried bilberries (blueberries) or raisins
5 to 6 cups unbleached flour
1. Prepare saffron.
2. Dissolve yeast in water.
3. Mix the butter with eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
4. Add milk to butter and eggs.
5. Add almonds and dried fruit
6. Stir in saffron mixture.
7. Add flour gradually and stir with wooden spoon until it is is smooth and forms a ball.
8. Place on floured board or counter and knead until smooth - about 5 minutes.
9.Put into a greased bowl, turn it over and cover with a towel in a warm place until double, about an hour and a half.
10. Punch down dough, divide into 3 sections. Braid and form into a circle shape.
11. Place on cookie sheet and let rise until double - about 30 minutes.
12. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
13. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
14. Remove from oven, cool and ice.
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Combine and gradually add water until it is the consistency of icing.
Drizzle on to bread.
Decorate with slivered toasted almonds and/or dried fruit if desired.
Top with candles
St. Nicholas was born in the 4th Century in Lycia, Asia Minor to very wealthy parents. Even as a child he was very religious. He was very young when he became a priest and he went on to become a bishop. Sadly, his parents died shortly after he was ordained. He inherited a great fortune, and he shared it generously with people in need. His giving was from the heart - he was not interested in credit or compensation. He often gave unanimously. He was dedicated to common people and emperors alike.
St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children, laborers, merchants, pawn brokers, and particularly sailors and those who work near water.
There are many stories describing his generosity. A nobleman who had lost his fortune was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters so planned to sell them into slavery. St. Nicholas galloped by their castle in the dark of night and threw a bag of gold in the window. He did this three nights in a row, providing each daughter with a dowry. Eventually, it was discovered that he had been the generous benefactor. His fame as a gift giver spread through out many lands and he has been credited with the concepts of Father Christmas and Santa Claus.
The three bags of gold represent the three golden balls found on the signage outside pawn broker's shops.
In another more gruesome story, he saved three babies, often pictured beside him. During a famine, an inn keeper had no meat to feed his customers so he cut up three children and tossed them into a brine filled pickling tub. Thankfully, St. Nicholas walked in just in time to bless the boys and bring them back to life!
During that same famine, he convinced sailors on a ship filled with grain to unload some of their cargo to feed those who were starving. They were initially reluctant since the grain had been weighed and they wanted to deliver the entire shipment. He assured them that the cargo would weigh exactly the same amount when it was delivered. It did.
As you celebrate St. Nicholas Day, give a gift from the heart. It doesn't need to be expensive. It could be a kind word, a quote that would make someone feel valued, a thank you. Or is could be a poem, or a recipe! Here's my gift to you!
Golden Bishop's Tea
4 cups black or green tea
4 cups apricot nectar
Serve hot with a honey if desired and a sprig of rosemary
and a sprinkling of nutmeg
Optional: 1 Tablespoon apricot brandy per cup
Golden Apricots, Tansy and Wheat
As you celebrate St. Nicholas Day, think gold! Decorate with golden wheat and tansy! Serve apricot or orange nut bread with Golden Bishop's Tea. Create your own golden delights!
Asparagus Cheddar Pie
This week I'm working on Orange for my Exploring Rainbows class and my asparagus cheddar pie turned out to be more orange than expected so I thought I'd share. More orange will follow on my Lost in a Rainbow section after next Tuesday's class. Here's the recipe - very easy.
Heat oven to 375 F
Partially baked 10" home made pie crust - I baked mine for 5 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
Brush the bottom of the baked pie crust with 1 T dijon mustard, optional
I pound asparagus,, cooked
3/4 cup light cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh dill, optional
2 cups grated cheddar cheese separated into 1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup for topping.
Hot Hungarian paprika
Cut the asparagus stalks in half and reserve the top halves. Cut the bottom halves into smaller pieces - about one inch - and place in pie shell.
Combine eggs, cream, garlic, spices and 1 1/2 cup cheese and pour over asparagus.
Arrange the top pieces of asparagus with the spear heads facing in towards the middle.
Top with remaining half cup of cheese.
Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes (until the eggs are set and knife inserted in the center comes out clean).
Honey lemon tea can be used alone or with black tea or any combination of herbal teas.
Sterilize wide mouth canning jar or glass container.
Place lemons loosely in jar. Slowly pour in honey, using a knife to pull lemons away from the sides and allow honey to flow cover entirely.
Place jar in refrigerator and let marinate for seven days.
To serve, use 2 or 3 Tablespoons per cup or to taste,
You will need -
Basic White Bread Recipe
Make a basic white bread recipe - I use King Arthur Unbleached Flour. - see recipe above. A recipe for 6 cups of flour will make 3 loaves.
This is very similar to the recipe I use and has a step by step guide especially helpful if you are a beginner.
After the bread has risen the first time, divide the dough into three parts. Divide each part into three more sections to make the braids. Roll sections into 10 - 12" long lengths.
Place shredded cheese and paprika on rolled lengths before braiding them and then add more cheese and paprika to the top after the braids are complete..
Oven - 375 F
Cover and let rise until double - 30 to 45 minutes.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Ding Dong season is here! Last night we gathered to sing carols and learn new harmonies. Challenging and so much fun. This group is amazing and our director, Jessica Johnson, is brilliantly talented (not to mention kind and gorgeous!)
I took some herbal treats and thought you might like to try them so recipes are included.
Lavender Mint Cucumbers
Green Beans Vinaigrette
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lavender blossoms
I cup (two sticks) butter at room temperature
2 cups almond flour
1 cup flour
Combine the sugar and fresh lavender blossoms using a food processor.
Add the butter and combine. Next add the flours.
Mix until thoroughly combined.
The batter will be soft.
Chill for 30 minutes.
Flour both sides of the dough and place between two long sheets of waxed paper.
Using a rolling pin, roll to 1/4 inch thickness. Work quickly. The dough will get soft again as you work with it.
Cut cookies with a floured cookie cutter.
Remove all the excess dough and return to the 'fridge. This will make it easier to move your shaped cookies.
Gently lift cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment paper.
Chill the cookies on the baking sheets for 30 minutes
Set oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Once the oven is preheated, bake for about 30 minutes. Begin checking at 20 minutes and don't let the edges of the cookies brown.
Cool on a wire rack placed.
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tablespoon water.
Mix thoroughly with a fork. Add a little more water if needed.
Keeping the cookies on the wire rack, move them over the sink if your rack fits, or place waxed paper under neath for easy clean up. This can get messy!
Use a spoon to lightly glaze the cookies. Top with lavender blossoms. Let the glaze set up and serve.
My last harvest of lavender and almond lavender cookies to celebrate the summer solstice.
One of the simplest ways to use lavender is to simply gather the stalks of lavender and tie with a ribbon. It's best to cut them as soon as the flowers are in bloom in the spring. Cut them a few inches above the woody growth so you won't harm the plant. Gather first thing in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun becomes intense.
Hang to dry in a cool dark place.
You'll need 6 stalks of lavender
Ribbon - I've been using 3/16 inch lavender satin ribbon for all my projects. It's not too large to over power the lightness of the flowers.
Make two lavender braids using 3 stalks for each braid. When they are braided, bend into a loop. Put the two loops together to form a heart, keeping the flowers on top. Cut off the stems in the back and tie with a ribbon.
12 to 18 stalks of lavender
One egg white, beaten until frothy
1/3 Granulated sugar
Waxed paper or parchment paper
Dip just the flowers of the lavender into the egg whites to completely cover, then dip them into the sugar. Place on waxed paper or parchment paper and let dry away from heat or sun. Use as a garnish with fruit salad, lemonade, or iced tea.
Stir some fresh lavender flowers into your favorite sugar cookie recipe, vanilla ice cream or lemon sherbet.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!