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Today is the Eve of St. Lucy's Day!

Tonight (December 12) at sunset, the feast for St. Lucy's or St. Lucia's Day begins! The feast lasts from tonight at sunset until tomorrow night at sunset.

Saint Lucy or Santa Lucia was a young girl who grew up in Italy in the 4th century. She is one of the earliest Christian martyrs. She was killed by the Romans in 304AD because of her religious beliefs. St.Lucy was born into a rich family but desired to dedicate her whole life to God and to give all of her worldly possessions to the poor. She brought food to persecuted Christians that were hiding in the Roman catacombs. The catacombs were dark and in order to find your way around, you needed to carry candles. St. Lucy wanted to bring as much food as possible to the people but needed to keep both of her hands free. She solved this problem by attaching candles to a wreath on her head.

St. Lucy’s Day is celebrated in many countries. Every aspect of the day has special significance since it comes on one of the darkest days of winter. The name Lucy or Lucia means “light” and she is remembered wearing a crown of candles both of which bring light and hope to the darkest time of winter. St. Lucy is also depicted wearing a white dress which symbolizes her baptisimal robe and a red sash which symbolizes her martyrdom.

A traditional way to celebrate is to make saffron buns. Saffron buns are a delicious sweet yeast bread curled into S shapes and baked.

St. Lucy's Day Saffron Buns

3/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)

1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast

3 1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

The seeds from 3 cardamom pods, ground (optional)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup of sour cream

2 large eggs



1 egg, beaten

In a small pot, heat the milk, saffron, and 1 teaspoon of sugar together until the milk is steamy. Remove from heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Let cool until about 115 degrees, or warm to the touch but not hot.

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm saffron-infused milk and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.

In a mixer, whisk together 3 1/2 cups of the flour, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, salt and ground cardamom (if using).

Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast milk saffron mixture, the eggs, the butter, and the sour cream. Mix the ingredients until well incorporated.

Switch to the dough hook of your mixer (if using, otherwise knead by hand). On low speed start to knead the dough. Slowly add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition. Do this until the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, but does not completely stick to your hands when you handle it.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. (Note at this point you can make ahead and refrigerate overnight if you wish.)

Let sit in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. (One way to tell that the dough is ready is that you poke your finger in it and it takes quite a bit of time for the indentation left by your finger to go away.)

When the dough has doubled in size, gently press it down and knead it a couple of times. Break off a piece and form it into a ball about 2 inches wide. Roll the ball out into a snake, about 14 inches long. Then curl the ends in opposite directions, forming an "S" with spirals at each end. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough shapes double in size, 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a pastry brush, brush some beaten egg over the tops and sides of the uncooked buns. Place raisins in the centers of the "S" spirals.

Place in the oven and bake at 400°F for about 10 to 11 minutes (turning halfway through cooking to ensure even browning), until the buns are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before eating.

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