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St. Lucy Saffron Buns-Lussekatter

St. Lucia Day, also known as the Festival of Light, is a day of celebration that dates back as early as the 4th century. On this day we commemorate our beloved St. Lucy and seek to imitate her acts of charity and service to others. The legend tells us that she used to deliver bread and food to Christians hiding in the catacombs and wore a wreath of candles around her head to light the way.

The devotion to St. Lucy is celebrated with great pride in Sweden. It is said that around 1100AD Catholic monks brought the story of St. Lucy to them and their culture has perpetuated the story of this saint ever since. Tradition holds that on December 13th, the eldest daughter in the family will dress in a white gown with a red sash. She would be called “Lucia” and wear a crown of lit candles, or in modern times battery powered ones, and deliver baked goods and coffee to the family. The other children in the family would walk behind the eldest carrying a single lit candle.

This is a day of great festivity with community celebrations, processions, and singing that carries on into the evening. In the old calendar, St. Lucy's day marked the longest and darkest night in the year, and it's no coincidence that her name means light!

The name Lussekatter translates to "Lucia cats" and the "S" shape is meant to represent the curly tail of a cat. Lussekatter is a Swedish saffron-infused bread that is uniquely designed in various shapes, some "S" shaped as I mentioned, and others resembling a blonde girl's hair. It is a time-honored tradition that is clearly must-bake for the feast of St. Lucy on December 13th.

For your domestic church, have your the oldest daughter deliver coffee and lussekatter, or "S" shaped saffron buns, to the rest of your family. You could also make these delicious buns together with your family or friends and light your Advent wreath.

You can also read more about my writing on St. Lucy here!

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Yields: About 24 servings


Prep Ahead

  • ½ tsp saffron threads

  • 3 Tbsp milk

  • 55 raisins

For the Dough

  • 1 ½ c milk, warmed between 100F-110F

  • 2¼ tsp, or 1 packet, instant yeast

  • ¾ c sugar

  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled

  • 1 egg, lightly whisked with a fork

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 5½ c unbleached flour

For the Egg Wash

  • 1 egg

  • 1 Tbsp water


Carefully grind ½ tsp saffron threads with the back of the spoon until it is finely crushed. Add 3 tbsps milk to the crushed saffron and set aside for an hour. Stir occasionally so as to mix in the saffron and infuse the milk.

Each vial is about 1/8 tsp!

While your saffron is setting, you can also plump your raisins by placing them in a small bowl of warm water and set aside.