These saffron buns are traditionally made all over Scandinavia to celebrate Santa Lucia Day (13 December). Santa Lucia is the patron saint of the blind. The same sideways "S" shape, called "occhi di Santa Lucia" (eyes of St. Lucy), is used in Pane Sicialano, a traditional bread of Syracuse.
Kneading: Use a dough scraper to keep the board clean. It's important to add very little or no extra flour while kneading.
Shaping: Divide the dough equally into twelve pieces. Roll them into long threads.
Curl each thread into a double spiral. (While not traditional for Lucia buns, 6 strand braids are nice too. This dough can also be shaped like little birds.)
Decorating: Put the shaped buns onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Place two raisins on each shaped bun.
Baked and cooling: Note that I put the shaped buns too close together. They look much better if they stay apart. (but they still taste great this way)
excerpt from www.antiquespectacles.com:
Saint Lucy of Syracuse (284-304), also known as Saint Lucia, Santa Lucia, or Saint Lukia, [...] Patroness of Syracuse, also the principal Catholic representative of the patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble; Protector of Eyesight; also patron saint of Opticians, Ophthalmologists and Firemen; the patron saint of the sailor [...] The chosen feature of her sainthood is not, however, the martyrdom itself, but a previous incident. It was said that her lover had so greatly admired her beautiful eyes that she felt it was a sin. The legend continues, "considering these things and calling to mind the words of Christ, 'If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee,' and fearing lest her eyes should be the cause of damnation to the young man, she called for a knife and took out her eyes and sent them to her lover in a dish with these words; 'Here hast thou what thou so much desired.' Whereat the young man became utterly astonished and full of grief and remorse became also a convert to Christ. God would not suffer that the blessed Lucia, having given proof of her courage and piety, should remain blind, for one day, as she knelt in prayer her eyes were restored to her more beautiful than before."