The Ultimate Guide To Christmas In Sweden: Tradition, Events & More | Kidadl

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The Ultimate Guide To Christmas In Sweden: Tradition, Events & More

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Christmas is always special wherever you are in the world and it is no surprise that Christians and non-Christians both enjoy Christmas.

Each country in the world has values and traditions that define the way the festival is celebrated around the country, with different food and different customs followed each day. Christmas is considered a popular festival, but a country's history and culture both forge the roots of the festival, and here we will learn about the festival in the dark, cold, and snowy Decembers of Sweden.

The Swedish Christmas begins on December 13 with St Lucia's Day. St Lucia's Day is celebrated in memory of Saint Lucia, a third-century martyr who brought food for persecuted Christians in hiding. On St Lucia's Day, the eldest girl in the family becomes Saint Lucia by putting on a white robe and wearing a crown of candles. The latter is nowadays not used as putting on some candles on the head is risky, so usually, an alternative is used. The girl portraying Saint Lucia serves her parents buns and mulled wine or coffee. Christmas trees are put up a few days before Christmas and are usually decorated with flowers like julstjärna (poinsettia), red tulips, and white or red amaryllis. Christmas Eve is called Julafton in the Swedish language and on this day, the people visit a church for church services. A traditional family dinner awaits them at home as they return from the church which includes a buffet dinner, called smörgåsbord in Swedish, with ham, fish, pork, and many different sweets.

Once the festive Christmas Eve dinner gets over, someone in the house will dress up as Tomte. In Swedish folklore, Tomte is the Christmas gnome living in the forest. Tomte is actually the Santa Claus equivalent to many Swedes and in the country that gives out gifts. Wish a Swede God Jul once you see one during the Christmas season. God Jul is Merry Christmas in Swedish. If you are in Sweden for the holiday season, you can definitely find something fun during those days. All cities in Sweden will provide you with some unique and interesting events leading up to Christmas day. Travel to the biggest city in Sweden, Stockholm, where a live version of the popular Swedish Christmas holiday show, Christmas Calendar, is seen every season with new and different performances each day of the month of December until Christmas Day.

Christmas traditions are different in different countries and Sweden holds some interesting concepts of the festival. The first Sunday of Advent is spent by many Swedes that celebrate Christmas by attending church. The first Advent is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Sweden sees a lot of cold, snowy, dark days during this time of the year where the days are short and nights are long. Since the first day of December, children start counting the days until Christmas with an Advent calendar. The main Christmas festivities start on December 13 with St Lucia's Day celebrating the patron saint of light. After the dressing up of the eldest daughter as the Queen of Light and a snack of coffee and treats, families travel to the Christmas market to buy handmade crafts, toys, ornaments, candy, and Christmas gifts. The people who like sharing gifts will seal the gift package with sealing wax and send the gift with a special verse along with it. The Christmas tree is chosen just a day or two before Christmas by the whole family and things like papier-mache apples, heart-shaped paper baskets, pinecones, small Swedish flags, straw ornaments, candies, and small gnomes are used to decorate the Christmas tree. The decorations should be completed before Christmas Eve. However, most people decorate the Christmas tree on the day of Christmas Eve. Gingerbread cookies in different shapes will take your breath away. On Christmas Eve, the midday meal is completed by remembering a time when food was scarce in the country and people used to dip their bread in a thin broth. Right after this meal, the feast begins with dried fish (a smorgasbord of lutefisk), boiled potatoes, Christmas ham, pork sausage, spiced bread, herring salad, and many different kinds of sweets. There is also a Christmas spirit fun activity as whoever finds the almond in the special rice pudding will get married the next year.

There are many other customs followed in Sweden during Christmas, which will be discussed in the next topics.

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How do they celebrate Christmas in Sweden?

When you see a Swede during Christmas time, do not forget to wish Merry Christmas in their local language by saying God Jul.

They celebrate Christmas from the month of December and the festivities run till Christmas day. The Christmas tree is decorated nicely, while St. Lucia's Day is celebrated by dressing up and having a large spread of food. Nothing compares to the julbord and then the dessert that makes up the best time of the festival in Sweden. If you are in the locality during the festivals, visit different places in the country for different experiences.

Some famous food during Christmas includes pickled herring, pate, gravlax, knackebrod, meatballs with beetroot salad, ham, and lutfisk. This julbord spread is loved by all Swedes all around the world.

It is very beautiful, with the northern lights sometimes visible in the night sky in the north of the country.

Christmas Traditions In Sweden

Like many other countries in the world, Sweden has their own traditions when it comes to Christmas. It is eventful, yet fun in the Swedish Christmas.

Festivities in Sweden start with St Lucia's Day on December 13. It is also called St. Lucy's Day. The monks who first brought Christianity in the country of Sweden told these stories to the masses. Saint Lucia was a young Christian girl killed for her faith in 304. The most known story about her is that Saint Lucia brought food secretly to persecuted Christians hiding in Rome under the city. The meaning of the name is light and it was quite adept when Saint Lucia wore candles on her head so that she could keep her hands free. December 13, the day of the festivities is also the Winter Solstice which is the shortest day of the year. In a common Swedish household, St Lucia's Day is celebrated by the eldest girl in the family dressing in a white dress and a red sash around the waist. A crown of candles is also seen on her head. Younger children use electric candles as it is safer. The crown that the girl wears is made of the branches of Lingonberry which are evergreen. It marks new life in winter. In some towns and villages, only one girl is chosen from the whole village and people go on processions by singing Christmas carols. Lucias even visits old age homes and hospitals singing carols and handing ginger snap biscuits or Pepparkakor. Small children too sometimes like dressing up as Lucias without the candle (tärnor) and boys dress up as Stjärngossar or star boys. This festival of St Lucia's Day is celebrated in Sweden since the late 1700s. It is also celebrated in many other countries like Croatia, Denmark, Bosnia, Norway, and Finland.

The first day of the advent is called Första Advent and people put their advent candles and an advent star in the windows. These advent candles are four candles put in a box and the box is decorated with greenery. During Advent, a candle is lit every Sunday. The tradition of the advent candles came from the German Advent wreath.

The next is Christmas Eve, which is also very important in Sweden. The main Christmas meal is had on this day. At lunchtime, a julbord or buffet is spread across the Christmas table. Cold fish is an important item on the julbord going by the local customs. Herring, salmon, and smoked salmon are present often on this julbord. There can be other cold meats and classic dishes on the table including turkey, julskinka (Christmas ham), roast beef, cheeses, liver pate, salads, pickles, and different types of bread and butter. There will be other food items discussed later.

People go to the church first thing on Christmas morning. People also often watch Donald Duck on Christmas Eve afternoon. The end of the celebrations of Christmas is on January 13 when the Christmas tree is taken down and leftover cookies and sweets are eaten. This day is also called Tjugondag Knut or Tjugondag Jul.

Swedish Christmas Food

People enjoy a mug of mulled wine with gingerbread cookies when the holiday countdown starts. Christmas markets are full of delicacies and people from far and near visit the nearest Christmas market to get their favorites for the new Christmas day.

Julbord is enjoyed from early December and on Christmas Eve, the julbord has a big spread. Julbord includes cold fish, herring, smoked salmon, and gravlax. It can also include cold meats like ham, turkey, and roast beef. There will also be items like salads, pickles, cheeses, liver pate, and different types of bread and butter. Items like meatballs, 'kåldolmar' (meat-stuffed cabbage rolls), 'prinskorv' (sausages), jellied pigs' feet, revbenspjäll (oven-roasted pork ribs), and lutfisk (dried cod served with a thick white sauce). Red cabbage and potatoes are some of the foods served. Desserts include sweet pastries and some more pepparkakor biscuits. There can be many other homemade sweets too.

Christmas food also includes 'risgrynsgröt'. This is a rice porridge/rice pudding that's eaten with 'hallonsylt' or raspberry jam and sometimes some cinnamon is also added. After the dish becomes cold, risgrynsgröt can also be mixed with whipped cream and a warm fruit sauce.

There's a special food that is eaten on St Lucia's Day morning which is lussekatts. These are buns flavored with saffron and dotted with raisins.

Although everything was handmade previously, nowadays due to the uniform offerings in the department stores and availability of all kinds of food items, nothing needs to be made. Not many people have time to even salt their own hams.

The julbord is even found in many restaurants in Sweden from late November.

Stars are put in the windows to let people know that the wise men followed a star to find Jesus in the story of Christmas.

Swedish Christmas Drink

The beverages include beer, snaps, brännvin, or akvavit in a Christmas meal.

Julmust is a seasonal soft drink served at the julbord.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Christmas in Sweden, then why not take a look at Christmas in Mexico, or Christmas in Germany.

Written By
Ritwik Bhuyan

Ritwik has a bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. His degree developed his passion for writing, which he has continued to explore in his previous role as a content writer for PenVelope and his current role as a content writer at Kidadl. In addition to this, he has also completed CPL training and is a licensed commercial pilot!

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