Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

festivals, unlike quotidian rituals of blessing food or saying grace at the table to honor what we eat, highlight foods and dishes that reflect a community’s religious, social, and cultural roots.

In Europe’s traditionally Catholic countries, saints’ days often have their own festivals, which are associated with particular sweets. In Sicily, to celebrate the 13 December holiday of Santa Lucia, a wheat and ricotta cream dish called cuccìa (related to the word for grain) is traditionally enjoyed. This practice has its roots in the seventeenth century, when residents of Palermo suffering from famine prayed to the Sicilian saint Santa Lucia, who hailed from Siracusa. When a boat carrying wheat arrived, the grain was quickly boiled instead of being ground into flour for pasta, and it was eaten with the local ricotta cheese. The ricotta cream version of cuccìa is specific to Sicily, where pasta and bread are banned on the holiday in commemoration of this historical event. In Sweden, St. Lucia Day is celebrated with saffron buns in assorted shapes (Lussekatter), whose golden hue brings light to the dark December days.