When I applied for my year abroad in Sweden, one of the things that I was really looking forward was Christmas time. I have always heard good things about this time of the year in Scandinavia – how cozy the houses get with all the decoration, all the tasty cookies, etc. During the dark November, I started to see the premises of Christmas time in the shops, and even in town, where some light decorations appeared. But it was nothing compared to December.
Let me introduce you to the Swedish way of celebrating Christmas, through the eyes of an exchange student.
Disclaimer: the point of this article is to see how an exchange student feels about Christmas in Sweden and what stands out at first sight. That is the reason why some information can miss or be approximative.
The first category of noticeable things is the Christmas decoration: when December shows up, so do the cozy paper stars on every window. While some houses (and even schools, offices or shops) might bear such stars, some others are ornamented with typical candelabra. I also happen to see a lot of these cute figurines called tomtar and representing bearded gnomes wearing big red hats.
Besides these Christmas-related decorations, a bunch of events also occur during December. First, some Christmas markets open in nice places such Dylta Bruk, or Wadköping. Inside these markets you can find a lot of crafts, such as for example candlesticks, wooden kitchen utensils, woolen socks and mittens, or also some pottery. You can of course have a taste of Sweden when trying some moose salami or Swedish cheese and marmalade. The second big event of Christmas time in Sweden is Lucia day. From what I heard about it, on every 13th of December, girls are dressing up as Lucia, an Italian saint, wearing a white tunic and lights in their hair, and everyone is parading and singing typical songs.
Finally, a lot of food seems to be related to Christmas time in Sweden. I can first talk about the tasty pepparkakor, those spicy cookies that you will for sure find in every grocery store during this month. I also eat a lot of lussekatter, these saffron brioches in a “S” shape that are ornamented with two dry grapes. During the ESN Farewell Dinner that took place during this month, I got the chance to try the famous julbord, this Christmas buffet where you can savour some meatballs, marinated fish, smoked salmon, potatoes, and a lot of other appetising dishes.
Moving on to typical Christmas drinks, I can first mention julmust, which is a soda that I see in every shopping cart during December. And finally, how not to talk about the amazing glögg, this spicy mulled wine that Swedes drink with some roasted almonds and dry grape inside.
Bonus: I also noticed that building ginger houses is also a tradition here, which is not without reminding me the Hansel and Gretel tale…
Anyway, that’s it for my Exchange-Student-Perspective-Swedish-Christmas-Review. I hope you exchange students learned a bit more about Christmas in Sweden, and that you Swedes enjoyed seeing your traditions reviewed by an alien.