Merry Christmas from JBU

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This Christmas, we take you inside the home of President Chip & Mrs. Carey Pollard as Carey shares one of their family Christmas traditions — the celebration of St. Lucia's Day and baking of Cardamom Coffee Cake.

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History of St. Lucia's Day

Carey & Emma PollardOn the 13th of December, people around the world celebrate St. Lucia’s Day. Lucia’s name means "light," and light itself is an essential character in the celebration: flickering over the wreath of candles worn by girls to commemorate St. Lucia. Tradition holds that Lucia lived in Sicily during the 3rd century—a time during which Christians suffered heavy persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian. Lucia herself was a Christian, known for distributing her wealth among the poor, and she often brought food and supplies to other persecuted Christians hiding in the underground catacombs. To free her hands to carry as much as possible, she wore candles on a wreath about her head to light her way. 

St. Lucia’s day is most commonly celebrated in Scandinavia, where the eldest daughter of a family wakes before dawn, dresses in white with the wreath of candles on her head, and goes around the house, waking up her family to serve them coffee and baked goods—often lussekatter (Lucia saffron bread) and ginger biscuits. The celebration signals the arrival of Christmastide, pointing to the arrival of the Light of the World on Christmas Day. 

The Pollard family has been celebrating St. Lucia’s Day for many years. Carey Pollard’s grandparents immigrated to America from Sweden, and she grew up in a church which retained many Swedish traditions, including a St. Lucia’s Day celebration. She remembers the church’s St. Lucia’s candlelight service, with the choir singing and an older girl playing St. Lucia, and she, as a five-year-old, participated in the service, wearing a traditional Swedish costume to greet the congregation. “When Chip learned of the St. Lucia tradition,” she says, “he liked the idea of breakfast in bed.” Carey was given a Lucia crown as a gift, so they began to celebrate the holiday. 

When the Pollard’s daughter Emma was three years old, she joined her mother with a battery-operated crown, and she eventually served on her own with real candles. The Pollards have made some variations to the tradition—adding hot chocolate for Emma’s brothers and occasionally using cinnamon rolls or sprinkled doughnuts for convenience—but the family’s favorite is when Carey bakes a cardamom coffee cake rather than the traditional saffron Lucia buns. “It’s very time-consuming,” Carey explains, “so it didn’t happen every year!” Overall, the Pollards have found St. Lucia’s Day to be a wonderful tradition, a beautiful time to focus on the light of the Christ. 


Pollard Family Caradmom Coffee Cake

Prep Time: 1 hr Total Time: 3 hr 



1 pkg dry yeast
1¼ c lukewarm milk
½ c melted butter
½ c + 1 tsp sugar (divided)
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp cardamom
4 c flour 

4 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp cinnamon
¾ c sugar

1½ c powder sugar 
3-4 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla (optional) 



Dissolve yeast in ¼ c of lukewarm milk or water and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add remaining milk and heat the mixture until lukewarm. Stir in sugar, salt, cardamom and a small amount of flour. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Transfer the ingredients to a mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and remaining flour. Knead the dough on a flour-covered surface until it is smooth and firm. Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with a clean, damp towel. Let the dough rise in a warm location until it doubles in size.

To shape the ring, sprinkle a flat surface with flour and roll the dough out as thin as possible with a rolling pin. Brush melted butter across the top and sprinkle the dough with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Roll the dough in a jelly-roll fashion, beginning with a long edge. Join the ends of the roll to form a circle.

Place the ring on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Use a knife to cut ⅔ of the way into the outside of the ring at 2 inch intervals. Turn each portion onto its side. Let the dough rise again. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Wisk together powdered sugar and milk to make a glaze.  Drizzle over cooled cake.

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