Monday, December 13, 2010

Swedish Christmas Traditions

Marty's Rice Pudding Recipe
Salt Lake Tribune, 1980

Today is Lucia Day, which (as all Svenska tjejer know) is the beginning of Christmas. Rice pudding is traditional with an almond tucked into the creaminess. (Whoever gets the almond will have good luck in the coming year.) Once I won a newspaper contest with this delicious baked version.

Marty's Rice Pudding
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 cups cooked rice
Beat eggs until lemony in color. Add honey, sugar and spices; mix well. Stir in vanilla, cream, milk and cooked rice. Pour into a two-quart casserole. Bake at 325 degrees for 45-60 minutes until a knife comes out clean. (A custard rises to the top.)

Saint Lucia could serve the warm pudding with rolls and cocoa. She's another Swedish tradition.

Heidi as St. Lucia 1986

Every December 13th I made a crown out of a paper plate, clipped on little red candles, placed it on the head of one of my precious daughters and LIT IT ON FIRE! Little Swedish girls have done it for centuries—singed hair is the price of our heritage. There are many versions of the Lucia legend. This is the one I've passed down:

Saint Lucia and the Star Boys

Lucy was a young Christian girl martyred for her beliefs centuries ago in Rome. She was made a Saint, and remembered as St. Lucia in the Scandinavian countries. One especially dark and hopeless December the people in a poor village were starving. From across the lake they could see a blaze of brightness coming toward them. It was Lucia, her blond hair encircled by a halo of brilliant light, wearing a white robe with a red sash, bringing them bread. She was accompanied by young boys, their faces also illuminated as if by the stars, hauling sacks of food.

Since then the day has been celebrated as the Festival of Lights in Sweden. In some families the oldest daughter wakes up before dawn, and prepares a breakfast tray for her parents. She dresses in a white robe with a red ribbon sash, and wears a crown of candles. Her younger brothers play the part of the Star Boys, also wearing white, carrying pictures of stars. This is the start of Christmas festivities in their home.

For me, St. Lucia symbolizes the light Jesus Christ brings to the world, and the Bread of Life He provides for us. He gives a dark world hope. It's a lovely way to remember the reason I celebrate Christmas.

(Eventually we got a safe replica of a St Lucia Crown. It had fake candles lit with batteries.)

God yul!


Diane said...

Last year I used your rice pudding recipe (got it from Marta's blog). It was delicious, and my family all declared it a keeper. Thanks for sharing.

Raejean said...

I'm going to share the story of St. Lucia with my family at dinner tonight!

Heidi said...

The Eve of St. Lucia Day is now deemed "Light Night" at our house, mom. Really it was going to be a beautiful quiche dinner, honey butter & rolls, hot cider. Everyone had scriptures to read, etc. It was newspaper worthy... until the family sat down at the table.
Oh, well. Whatever. I got a picture of the table, which is what I'll show for years & I'll say, "this is Santa Lucia night, look at that fun tradition we always have!"
I want a halo of lights. That will be cute next year... until they all fight over it - oh well, whatever.

Kay Dennison said...

I've always loved the story of Saint Sophia!!!

Chiska said...

Thank you for this. We're trying to connect to some of our Swedish heritage. Some of it got lost in the desire to connect to other heritages of our ancestors. (And I love those too, just trying to expand.

Sheri said...

Marty, I remember that newspaper article about your pudding! It sounds so yummy--I think I'll make some. Thanks.

Grandma Lizzie's House said...

When I was a teenager, I had a brother who lived in Sweden for several years. When he came home he made us Swedish pancakes and taught us songs in Swedish. I still remember one of them.

Susan Adcox said...

You were very nervy to do the St. Lucia thing with actual candles! But what a lovely tradition. And the rice pudding sounds wonderful.

Susan Adcox said...

You were very nervy to do the St. Lucia thing with actual candles! But what a lovely tradition. And the rice pudding sounds wonderful.

Leslie said...

Donna Lou Morgan (the food editor) is my grandmother. It was fun to see a little piece of her writing. It made me smile to see her name (and made me miss her a little). Thanks for posting it.