St. Catherine, Patron Saint of Lacemakers

St Catherine, patron saint of lacemakers, celebrates her Feast Day on November 25. The first St Catherine of Alexandria is reputed to have been lovely, of highborn birth and a Christian convert. She refused to succomb and marry the Emperor and for this she was condemned to be broken on a wheel. Tradition says that the wheel broke apart and she was eventually beheaded! Hence, the Canadian name for the cookies below- St Catherine's wheel cookies.

St Catherine is also the patron saint of unmarried women, many of whom became lacemakers, the maidens prayed to her over the centuries for a husband. Her cult survived the Protestant Reformation and there is a famous 'Bal de St Catherine' tradition amongst the fashion houses in Paris. Again the fashion industry hoped to lovely the ladies to fetch a husband. Then there were the young women called “Catherinettes”. Family and friends would make them outlandish and rakish hats in vivid colours, yellow (for faith) and green (for wisdom). These hats were then worn all day signifying their availiblitity. St Catherine is also the patron saint of milliners.

There is also Catherine of Aragon, shunned wife of Henry the VIII who was imprisoned at Ampthill near Nottingham in England. There she herself made lace and is reputed to have burned all her own lace to give the lacemakers of Nottingham work. The recipe below is for Cattern or St Catherine cakes truly more of a cookie. These delights can be eaten with something called Hot Pot, a hot mixture of rum, beer and eggs but tea will do just as nicely and then more lace can be made.


2 cups self rising flour
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
2 teaspoons caraway seed
1 stick butter
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Pre heat oven to 400F. Combine first 6 ingredients. Stir in melted butter then egg to make a dough. Roll dough to 12x12 inches. Brush dough with water and sprinkle cinnamon as desired and brown sugar on top. Roll up in a Swiss roll. Cut 12 slices place on greased pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

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