While I am in Stockholm enjoying all the Christmas things, I spoil you with a post full of winter joy. December is a cold, dark month in the North. Christmas is a major event here. It brings some light into the darkness. That light plays a major role in many Swedish Christmas traditions. Wondering what a Swedish Christmas looks like?
In Belgium the advent is somewhat pushed to the background, but in Sweden, ‘första advent‘ is a day marked in the agendas. Scandinavians are champions when it comes to cosiness and on the first day of the advent they make time to make it extra cozy at home. They burn a first advent candle (in addition to all the candles they already burn anyways) and dive into the kitchen to bake cookies (pepparkakor). Gingerbread houses are extremely popular. Also on social media they wish each other a good first Advent. They repeat this the three Sundays thereafter. The first Advent is also the time when most Christmas markets start. And do you know the story of Gävlebocken?
The last years a new trend is spreading: novent. It is a combination of november and advent. Early november they already start with the winter decorations at home.
If you know that Jul is the Swedish word for Christmas, you can deduce the meaning of the word ‘Julkalendern’. In Sweden an advent calendar is to be found in almost every household. But Julkalendern is also a TV program which is broadcast every day. It is aimed at children but the whole family enjoys watching it. Every year there is a different story.
In Stockholm you have Levande Julkalendern. Every day another hatch opens in Gamla Stan.
December the 13th is the day of Sankta Lucia. Before the recalculation of the calendar, this was the shortest day of the year. The festival has remained on December the 13th. This is the real launch of the Christmas season and one of the major Swedish Christmas traditions, it is almost as huge as midsommar. On December the 13th, the children wake their parents. They sing Lucia songs and bring their parents lussekatter (sweet saffron buns). In each village there is a Lucia procession with a Lucia who wears a wreath with candles on her head.
The most important day for a Swedish Christmas is not December the 25th but December the 24th. Christmas Eve or Julafton is celebrated with family. It starts at 15h when everyone is gathering in front of the TV. Every year, since 1959, the Swedes watch Kalle Anka or Donald Duck. 3 to 4 million of Swedes are watching “From All of Us to All of You.”
After Kalle Anka they prepare for a visit from Santa Claus. If the packages are unpacked, they move onto the Christmas buffet (julbord).
On Christmas Day they keep it quiet. The leftovers of julbord are eaten, they go out in the snow (although snow is no guarantee in the southern part of Sweden at Christmas) and make it cozy at home. On Jul annandag or Boxing Day they either continue in the same way, or they return to everyday life, or go to the shops where the sales (mellandagsrea) begin.
Most Swedes are very attached to their traditions. They choose the same food every year. Julbord or a Christmas buffet is very popular. Also at the restaurants you can reserve a julbord, already from mid- November. At a Christmas buffet you will find pickled herring, Swedish meatballs, beet salad, gravlax (cured salmon), liver pâté, crispbread, Janssons frestelse (sort of a potato gratin), gubbröra (egg with anchovy) and the Christmas ham or julskinken. Besides glögg they also serve Christmas beer (julöl) or julmust (a type of Christmas-cola). For dessert they have rice pudding.
In some families, they put up the tree during Advent. Others wait until the day before Julafton. A lot of people still get their tree straight from nature. Most trees stay up untill 20 days after Christmas or tjugondedag Jul. This day is sometimes called Knut Day and on this day they store away all the Christmas decorations.
Would you like to get the Swedish Christmas feeling at home? In Ikea you can find the typical Christmas decorations, dough for biscuits and julskinken. And with this Spotify list of Christmas music you feel like you’re really in Sweden!