In Sweden, Christmas lasts almost two months! The Christmas celebration in Sweden begins on the first Sunday in December, which is Advent. On this Sunday, families in Sweden light one candle. Then, on each Sunday in December, they light another candle. Christmas finally ends on January 13 when people take their Christmas trees down. In between, though, the Swedes have many celebrations that are different from a typical American Christmas.
Christmas in Sweden is a festive time filled with traditions and celebrations. People decorate their homes with lights and candles, and families gather to exchange gifts and enjoy a special meal. One unique tradition is the Lucia procession, where a young girl dressed in a white gown and a crown of candles leads a group of singers.
Another popular custom is the Julbord, a Christmas buffet featuring dishes like herring, meatballs, and sausages. Overall, Christmas in Sweden is a time of joy and togetherness, with a focus on creating a warm and cozy atmosphere.
Swedish Holidays and Festivals
In Sweden, ‘Jul’ or Christmas is a major holiday and festival beginning officially on St. Lucia’s Day, December 13th. This day is celebrated by children parading in white gowns, singing songs, and holding candles. The pinnacle of the Christmas celebration occurs on ‘Julafton,’ or Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day.
This involves families congregating around an ornate Christmas tree to exchange presents and partake in a festive meal. A key tradition is the ‘Julbord,’ a grand Christmas buffet featuring traditional Swedish dishes like pickled herring, beetroot salad, meatballs, and a unique dessert known as ‘risgryngrot.’ ‘Jultomten,’ or Santa Claus, also plays a role in the festivities, delivering presents to children.
Swedish Traditions and Customs
In Sweden, the enchanting Christmas traditions, unique and fascinating, are initiated with the celebration of Saint Lucia’s Day on December 13. The hallmark of this day is a procession involving children, with a girl, chosen as ‘Lucia’, leading them.
Adorned in a white gown and a crown of candles, Lucia symbolizes the bringer of light, a beacon of hope and kindness during the long winter days. The festivities extend to Christmas Eve, or ‘Julafton’, where Swedish families indulge in a traditional festive meal, featuring dishes like meatballs, ham, and pickled herring, and culminating in the exchange of gifts.
The Christmas tree, an integral aspect of Swedish Christmas customs, is bedecked with stars, hearts, and occasionally even real candles, adding to the holiday merriment.
Saint Lucia’s Day in Sweden
In Sweden, the Christmas season commences with the enchanting celebrations of Saint Lucia’s Day on December 13th, particularly enjoyed by children. This festival of light, paying tribute to Saint Lucia, the Italian saint revered as the beacon of light during the dark Swedish winters, signifies the onset of the festive period.
The day is marked by children donning flowing white gowns, red sashes, and a wreath of candles on their heads, rousing their families with delightful songs and serving them coffee accompanied by traditional Swedish pastries known as ‘lussekatter’. This magical initiation of the Christmas season in Sweden is centered around spreading light in the country’s darkest times of the year.
Swedish Cuisine During Christmas
In Sweden, Christmas is a joyous culinary celebration that not only signifies the exchange of presents and decorations but also involves savoring traditional and delicious food. The ‘Julbord,’ a Christmas smorgasbord, is a prominent highlight, featuring an assortment of dishes like pickled herring, cured salmon, Christmas ham, meatballs, and a special sausage called ‘prinskorv.’
Alongside the smorgasbord, the Swedes relish ‘lussekatter,’ saffron-infused buns fashioned like a curled cat with raisin eyes. These buns are traditionally prepared for St. Lucia’s Day on the 13th of December, but their consumption extends throughout the festive season. Additionally, ‘pepparkakor,’ thin, crispy gingerbread cookies, are a favorite treat.
These cookies, often shaped like hearts, stars, or animals, present a delightful activity for children who enjoy decorating them with icing and candies, further integrating the country’s culinary traditions into the holiday festivities.
Julbord (Swedish Christmas Smorgasbord)
The Julbord, a grand Swedish Christmas Smorgasbord, is a key highlight of the festive season in Sweden, particularly for children. This buffet-style feast, traditionally held on Christmas Eve, showcases a plethora of Swedish culinary delights.
The wide-ranging menu includes everything from the beloved meatballs and sausages to the sweet Christmas bread, Julekake, that children particularly enjoy. Seafood dishes, such as gravlax, a unique Swedish fish, and pickled herring, also feature prominently on the table. The Julskinka, a large Christmas ham boiled and then baked with a mustard and breadcrumb crust, is another crowd favorite.
This meal sits at the heart of Swedish Christmas traditions, adding excitement and joy to the celebrations.
Swedish Christmas Decorations and Symbols
In Sweden, the holiday season is marked by distinctive and festive Christmas decorations and symbols that echo the country’s rich traditions. The ‘Julbock’ or the Christmas goat, a popular symbol made of straw and tied with red ribbons, traces its roots back to ancient pagan festivals and serves as a significant element of Swedish Christmas decor.
The long winter nights are illuminated by ‘Adventsstjärnor’ and ‘Adventsljusstake’, star-shaped lanterns and candle-holders respectively, that adorn Swedish homes. Adding to the festive cheer, especially for children, are ‘Julekurver’, heart-shaped paper baskets filled with sweets and hung on the Christmas tree. These unique decorations contribute a distinctive Swedish flair to the holiday season.
Swedish Christmas Music and Entertainment
In Sweden, the holiday season is brimming with festive music, unique traditions, and lively entertainment, creating a joyful atmosphere, especially for children. The Swedish Christmas song ‘Nu är det jul igen’ (Now it’s Christmas again) resonates throughout the season, embodying the holiday spirit.
This festive vibe is further enhanced by the unique tradition of St. Lucia Day, observed on December 13th, where children engage in processions while singing traditional Lucia songs. A timeless tradition since 1959 is the Christmas Eve viewing of ‘Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul’, featuring Donald Duck and his friends, where families congregate for the annual Disney special.
Additionally, the season is marked by school Christmas plays and concerts, where children perform traditional Swedish carols and dances, creating a vibrant showcase of the country’s cultural heritage.
History of Christmas Celebrations in Sweden
In Sweden, Christmas has been celebrated for centuries through a collection of unique traditions that mark the rich history of the country. The festivities begin on December 13th with the celebration of Saint Lucia’s Day, a renowned tradition where children participate in processions, and a chosen girl, crowned with candles, plays the role of St. Lucia.
This day signifies the commencement of the Swedish Christmas season. Another integral part of the Swedish yuletide history is the ‘julbord’, a lavish Christmas feast featuring traditional dishes such as pickled herring, ham, and meatballs. The anticipation of ‘Jultomten’, the Swedish equivalent of Santa Claus, who brings gifts on Christmas Eve, is a highlight for children.
Furthermore, to honor the country’s extensive Christian history, it is customary for many Swedes to attend a church service on Christmas Day.
Swedish Folklore and Mythology Related to Christmas
The Christmas season in Sweden is steeped in captivating folklore and mythology that add an extra layer of enchantment to the festivities. Among the most revered mythical figures is the ‘Tomte’ or ‘Nisse,’ a gnome-like creature reputed to safeguard homes and farms.
To express gratitude for Tomte’s year-round protection, it is a cherished Swedish tradition for children to leave a bowl of porridge out for this creature come Christmas. Keeping the Tomte appeased is critical since a disgruntled one can cause quite a commotion! The ‘Julbock’ or Yule Goat, another mythical creature tied to Swedish Christmas, has its roots in Norse mythology where Thor, the god, had a chariot pulled by two goats.
Presently, every Christmas, the town of Gävle erects a massive straw goat, even though it frequently falls prey to pranksters who attempt to incinerate it.
Gift-giving Traditions in Sweden
In Sweden, the festive Christmas season holds unique and thrilling traditions for children, particularly revolving around gift-giving. Instead of the familiar figure of Santa Claus, Swedish children anticipate the arrival of a gnome-like character known as ‘Jultomten’ or ‘Tomten’. Believed to reside beneath the house floorboards,
Tomten is a friendly entity responsible for the care and protection of the family and their animals all year round. As a token of gratitude, children excitedly prepare a bowl of porridge for Tomten on Christmas Eve. While the family indulges in the Christmas Eve dinner, Tomten discreetly enters, leaving gifts for the children and partaking in his porridge.
Occasionally, a grown-up from the family assumes the role of Tomten, adding to the surprise element with presents. This unique Swedish tradition imparts a sense of magic to the holiday season, crafting an unforgettable experience for youngsters.
Fun Facts About Christmas in Sweden for Kids
- December 13 is Saint Lucia day. Lucia was a young girl who was killed for her religious beliefs in 304 A.D. She is loved because she took food to the Christians who were hiding in the catacombs under Rome. At that time, Christians were hated and often killed for their beliefs.
- On St. Lucia day, the oldest girl in each home dresses in a white dress with a red sash. She wears a crown on her head with candles. She brings coffee and buns to her family for breakfast. Often, a community will choose a girl to be St. Lucia. She walks at the front of an Advent procession or visits hospitals and schools.
- Families in Sweden decorate Christmas trees. They often make straw ornaments to remind them of Jesus in his manger.
- Children open their presents on December 24. On Christmas Day, families go to church.
- At 3:00 on Christmas Eve, almost everyone in Sweden stops to watch an American television show, “From All of Us to All of You,” which is a Disney show featuring Donald Duck.
- Families enjoy a big feast on Christmas Eve. They eat platters of cold fish, cheese, meatballs, rice pudding and other yummy treats.
- The day after Christmas is Stephen’s Day after the patron saint of animals. Farmers give their animals extra food on this day.
Christmas in Sweden Vocabulary
- Lucia: a young Christian martyr. Her name means light and she wore a crown of candles so her hands would be free to carry food.
- Catacombs: tunnels and caves
- Procession: parade
All About Christmas in Sweden Video for Kids
This is the best video we found for kids to learn about Christmas in Sweden:
Christmas in Sweden Q&A
Question: Does Santa visit the children in Sweden?
Answer: Swedish children call Santa Jultomten. They believe he looks something like a gnome crossed with our Santa Clause.