Christmas is celebrated on a grand scale in many parts of the world. In Sweden, Christmas or 'Julafton' is celebrated with great display. The festive period lasts for a period of two months, during which many other special days are celebrated apart from Christmas. People rush to the markets during the period of Advent in order to get their shopping done. During Christmas time, the people in Sweden also celebrate 'St. Lucius Day', which is an important festival in Sweden. 'St. Stephen's Day' is also celebrated during this time. Christmas Eve is regarded as the most important day of the Christmas season. On this day a grand feast is prepared and various dishes are placed on a 'julboard'. 'Jultomten' is a small gnome who is believed to bring gifts to children on Christmas Day. Swedish people attend churches for the 'Julottan' on Christmas morning. Scroll further to learn more about Christmas traditions and customs in Sweden.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
'Julafton' or Christmas is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in Sweden. The Christmas celebrations are held for a period of 2 months and the festivities begins on the day of the Advent. The Christmas tree is brought home 2 days before Christmas Day. It is decorated with ornaments, electric lights and tinsels intricately. Many Swedish people also decorate the Christmas tree with sweets and treats and the treats are consumed by children only after Christmas is over. Swedish homes are decked with lights and stockings to reflect the theme of the Christmas season. The houses are also adorned with red tulips and one can smell the 'pepparkakor'-gingerbread biscuits shaped like a goat or a heart-star. Sweden families watch Christmas programs and features on television, which is a Swedish Christmas tradition. Families go on a shopping spree during the period of the Advent and buy all the necessary items from the Christmas markets.
St. Lucius Day
On December 13th, the people of Sweden commemorate 'St. Lucius Day' during Christmas time. According to Swedish traditions, the eldest daughter in the family wears a white robe and a wreath over her head which is lit with candles. On this day, the girl serves 'St. Lucia buns' and coffee to her family in their beds. This is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity in the following year.
Christmas Eve In Sweden
The 'dipping in the kettle' is a tradition followed after the midday meal on Christmas Eve to remember what their ancestors had to face during times when food was limited. People eat the bread pieces dipped into a kettle of thin broth as per the tradition. On Christmas Eve, a huge feast is prepared and served to the family members. Some of their favourite desserts include rice pudding called as 'risgryngrot', with an almond hidden inside. It is believed that the one who finds the almond will be the first person to marry in the coming year. Other Christmas dishes include, pickled pigs feet, dried codfish and ham. All the food is placed on a particular table known as 'julboard' where all the members select the food they would like to eat from the table. The families then gather around the Christmas tree to open gifts.
Jultomten, The Swedish Gift-Bringer
Children are told that 'Jultomten', the Swedish version of Santa Claus, brings gifts on Christmas Day. He is a gnome or a dwarf with a white beard and dressed in red robes. For this reason, children light candles and place them over the windowsills to guide Jultomten to their houses. They also leave a bowl of porridge kept outside for him. Many believe that if this custom is not followed then he will bring bad luck upon the family. After the Christmas Eve dinner, a member of the family dresses up like the Christmas gnome or 'Jultomten' by wearing red robes and a white beard to trick the children. He then distributes the gifts to everyone.
People in Sweden spend their Christmas Day at church. On Christmas morning, the churches are beautifully illuminated by candles for the service. The people attend church for the 'Julottan', which is a relic practiced for generations. After the Mass, they return home and spend the day in amity with their family. On December 26th, which is 'St. Stephen's Day', the people provide additional food to farm animals. The Christmas season ends on January 13th and the Christmas trees are removed. On the twelfth night of Christmas, boys dress up like the 'Three Wise Men' and carry a pole with a candle lit on the top. They visit all the homes in the village and sing carols.
Every country has their own way of celebrating Christmas and Swedish Christmas celebrations are very unique. The Christmas season is for a period of 2 months in Sweden. Jultomten is a Christmas gnome who brings presents to children, according to Swedish legends. During the Christmas season, St. Lucius Day and St. Stephen's Day are also celebrated.
Christmas in Sweden is a grand carnival. Many special days are also celebrated during the Christmas season. Read on to know more about Sweden customs, traditions and celebrations during Christmas.