So, here you are, about to experience your first swedish christmas ever. As if all of our everyday weirdness wasn’t enough, our crazy customs escalates to unbelievable proportions around christmas time. Here’s a list of the things that will make you seriously rethink your plans of moving here permanently, if you ever had any!
Advent The four sundays preceding christmas eve, the swedes celebrate ”advent”. The first advent Sunday marks the start of the swedish christmas season, where it’s finally okay to start listening to christmas music, buy christmas presents and be in a jolly mood for no reason (which, if you have done your ”being swedish 101”-homework, you know to be unacceptable during the rest of the year). During advent – and quite a while after – the swedes put special ”advent candlesticks”, glorified pixylights, in their windows and hang wreaths made of fir on their doors. Yes, it’s all very peculiar.
Julkalendern The 1st of december means the first episode of Julkalendern (the christmas calendar) is aired on SVT 1. This may be the most loved swedish christmas tradition of them all. It’s a children’s TV-series with 24 episodes, counting down the days from the 1st to the 24th of december. The plot is usually built around a few children who try to find the essence of Christmas, and the ending on christmas eve usually contains some kind of cheesy christmas miracle. Tip: If you want to watch two swedes get in a real fight, ask them which julkalender they think is the best so far (The battle between Sunes jul and Mysteriet på Greveholm never seems to settle).
Christmas eve Christmas eve is our main day of celebration, when we gather our loved ones to enjoy a lovely feast and exchange gifts. When christmas day arrives, most of us is already sick of jingle bells and nasty christmas foods, but we still have to spend the day visiting the rest of our relatives (that we don’t love as much) and then go out and get drunk with our homecoming childhood friends.
Strange foods on the mandatory julbord (christmas table) Swedes are obsessed with christmas foods, more specifically julbord, which is a kind of buffet containing an array of different christmasy foods that are more or less the same in all of Sweden. Here follows a list of some of the strangest dishes:
Julskinka (christmas ham) – This oven baked ham covered with mustard and breadcrumbs is usually the center of attention at any julbord
Janssons frestelse (Jansson’s temptation) – A special kind of potato gratin with anchovy
Rödbetssallad (beetroot salad) – Made of beetroot and mayonnaise, this purple goo is a real christmas classic
Sill (pickled herring) – Some of us love it, some of us hate it. Either way, no julbord is complete without as least five different kinds of pickled herring
Glögg (mulled wine)– This warm alcoholic beverage is enjoyed in tiny cups along with raisins and almonds, and a new innovative flavors is introduced every year – this year’s flavor is ”crowberry”.
Julmust (christmas root beer) – Another christmas classic is this oddly delicious coca cola-looking (but not tasting) drink that’s only available in stores around christmas time
Lussekatter (saffron buns or lucia cats)- Why not end of this wonderful feast with a yellow, fluffy bun filled with raisins? The saffron buns are the swede’s number one christmas fika and comes in all shapes and sizes.
Kalle Anka At 3 pm on christmas eve, all of Sweden stands still. The reason is a TV-show that’s simply known as ”Kalle Anka”. All though the name translates to ”Donald Duck”, he’s only one of many Disney characters that accompany us in our post-julbord food coma, in a parade of different short films that’s been airing on christmas eve, at the same time, every single year since the beginning of time. It’s a self-evident part of every swedish christmas celebration.
Tomten (Santa Claus) When it’s time to hand out the gifts, a chosen adult usually proclaim vey loudly that he or she is ”going out to buy the newspaper” and heads out the door. This is a charade for the children, of course, and the person in question instead quickly changes into a Santa-outfit that’s been laid out in some garage or tool shed. The disguised relative then returns to the party with a sack full of gifts which he (or she) hands out to the different family member who all play along with delight (with exception for the smallest children who’s left traumatized and exhausted from crying their eyes out after being forced to sit on that hideous mans lap just for the sake of an Instagram-picture).
Hopefully this crash course has taught you a thing or two about how to celebrate christmas as a true swede. Now get out there, eat some sill, drink some julmust, watch this year’s julkalender ”Selmas Saga” on SVT Play and be in a jolly mood for no reason! God jul!