Christmas Traditions and Child Labour: a joyous seasonal mix

Today was (is) Lucia day in Sweden. It’s a major event for everyone, but particularly for people with children. Essentially it is a re-working of a pagan winter festival to let in a little good light to the evil darkness of winter. In its modern form, it’s a time to beckon in the Christmas season, hear your children sing and watch them line up in white nightdresses with candles on their heads.

So far, so spooky. In reality, it is rather charming (apart from having to get up at six in the morning to make it to the school show before dawn breaks) and the kids love it. For me, it was an excuse to set the children to work.

Ginger biscuits – pepparkakor in Swedish – are an essential part of Lucia day, and what better way to make them than to convince the kids that baking a couple of kilos of the stuff is nothing but good fun.

Tonight all four of them took over the kitchen table in an explosion of flour and powdered ginger, mixing, kneading and rolling their way through enough ginger bread dough to fuel an army. It’s got to beat sitting in front of the TV, any day.

Girls love it

Boys too

The recipe is fairly simple; the muscle involved in mixing it together is equivalent to a 30-minute session at the gym; and the result is delicious. For a parent with children’s exercise in mind and a sweet tooth it’s a win-win situation.

Precision baking at work

The mess took a good hour to clean up, but the results were well worth it. And the kiddies had the time of their lives. Or the time of this week, at least.

Thank goodness for outdated but charming misunderstood ancient traditions. Without them the biscuit tin would be empty.

the result is worth the mess


Swedish Ginger Biscuits


  •  200G butter
  • 1 ½ dl dark syrup
  • 3 dl sugar
  • 1 ½ dl double cream
  • 1 tbsp. Powdered ginger
  • 1 tbsp. Powdered cinnamon
  • ½ tbsp. Powdered cardamom
  • 1 tbsp. Bicarbonate of soda
  • 10 dl flour


Warm the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan until it is melted into a sticky mass

Add the cream and the spices and stir vigorously to a smooth paste

Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and the flour

Work the dough until it becomes smooth

Place it in the fridge to rest over night

Remove from the fridge one hour before baking

Set your oven to 200C and roll out the dough so it is around 3mm in thickness

Cut out your desired shapes and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper

Cook in the oven for five minutes and let cool before eating

  • Monica-USA

    Looks like fun was had by all and the cookies turned out beautifully. :o )