Swedish Christmas traditions to brighten up December

In December, there are a myriad of events that take place in Sweden. (I am sure, similar things happen here in Denmark that I will get to experience.) Sweden is a country where it does really get dark in the evenings! I recall going to school and leaving home at 7:30am- pitch black. And going back home around 15:00- guess what… pitch black! I think that’s partly why Christmas and all these events are important- it simply takes you through a very dark time of year. To me it’s really a mix of many cultures and historical events throughout most of December. It starts with Advent; in almost every window in Sweden will you find an “Adventsljustake”. This is something that you can now also find in: IKEA in particular in the Nordic countries there is now a section especially for Christmas where you can find these chandeliers, candles, wrapping papers, stars and other decorative items. A lot of focus is on items that literally brighten up your home. Every Sunday starting 4 from Christmas Eve, you are supposed to light a candle. When I was little, we used to add moss and cones in a candle holder as well (not sure I can recommend it now due to fire hazard etc!!!). Then from the 1 to 24 December, kids open up an “Advents Calendar”. Usually, every day there is a little piece of chocolate in here. Some people create their own calendars. I have fond memories of creating ones for my brother using match boxes and adding small items in these. In Sweden since the 1960s, an annual TV series is also aired every day in December, culminating on the 24. It is mostly for children, but I’m sure the occasional adult also watches these from time to time. My favourite one is this one: Trolltider I think it aired additional years as well as it was so popular!

Then there are these traditional Julbord that starts end of November. It’s a traditional Swedish Christmas buffet full of Swedish delicacies such as pickled herring, gravad lax, pate, ham, different types of bread, knäckebröd, meatballs with beetroot salad, eggs, caviar and much more. In some parts of Sweden they also eat Lutfisk and Dopp i grytan. Two things I have to admit I myself have never tried. If you read about it, maybe you’ll understand why 😊. Some people however love it of course and it’s a tradition so important that it’s part of the Julbord! Other items to bake and eat are Saffron buns and Gingersnaps. In some houses you’ll also see the famous Gingerbread house. This is so much fun to do! You can buy the parts already baked and put them together using sugar and then decorate the house with frosting, smarties, marshmallows etc. let your imagination go wild! Kids love it (me too as I’m sure you can tell!). Famous drinks are glögg and julmust. Glögg you warm upp and drink in small cups and add blanched almonds and raisins to. Julmust is like a mix of root beer and cocoa cola.

On 13 December, we also celebrate Lucia. Girls and boys dress up in long white gowns. Sometimes you can also see small Santa’s in the train of people. In front, you always see a girl walking with lights in her hair. It’s beautiful to watch- in real life but it’s also always aired on tv. If you get the chance, I recommend watching this while savouring some Lussebullar and gingersnaps! You’ll get to hear some beautiful songs as well and see something that truly brightens up the dark winter.

Then of course you do Christmas shopping, arrange gifts, some people might do stockings and so on. The big day is actually on the 24. This is when a lot of food is eaten, gifts unwrapped, drinks savoured, tv watched at 15:00 and time spent with family and friends! If you’re ever in the Nordics in December, I recommend you try some of the things I’ve mentioned here. Perhaps you’re more adventurous than me and can tell me what Lutfisk and dopp i grytan taste like! I truly recommend!

11 thoughts on “Swedish Christmas traditions to brighten up December

    1. Yes that’s very true during the winter months! Then during summer it’s the opposite. It takes some time getting used to! And I grew up in Sweden… that’s why I think it’s so important to celebrate these different type of festivities, add lights and candles during the winter months and to invest in some very good curtains and blinds during the summer months! 🙏🏻😌

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess so. Though I’d love to explore those small differences and twists too 😊 Uu, lutefisk is not all. Have you heard of rakefisk? The one that rottens under the soil, and then smells horribly – and then gets eaten 😱🙈

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      2. That dish sounds like “surströmming”. Fermented herring that smells a lot. It’s eaten in Sweden in the autumn. Something else I have to admit I’ve never tried 🙏🏻😌. There are some fun YouTube clips around with people eating this for the first time- quite the reaction!

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      3. Yes most herring dishes- this one is also interesting to read the whole process around it. Different ways of preserving food. For this particular dish I have to admit that I am not brave enough 🙏🏻😌

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