When we think of Christmas in Sweden, a picturesque landscape of snow-covered streets, twinkling lights, and heartwarming traditions come to mind. But what truly makes Christmas in this Nordic country so special? Let's embark on a festive journey to uncover the magic of Swedish Christmas.
A History of Christmas in Sweden
Sweden's Christmas, known as "Jul" in Swedish, has its roots in ancient pagan festivals. Over time, these traditions merged with Christian customs, resulting in a unique blend of celebrations that we see today.
From the Advent season to the Thirteen Days of Christmas, each moment is filled with joy, reflection, and togetherness.
Christmas Traditions in Sweden
The Advent season
As December begins, the anticipation of Christmas fills the air in Sweden. The Advent season is a time of preparation and waiting. Advent calendars are a cherished tradition, with each day from December 1st to 24th marked by a window. As each day passes, a window is opened to reveal a surprise, often chocolates or small gifts.
Homes are adorned with decorative window lights, often star-shaped and made of paper. These lights, typically featuring intricate cut-outs, emit a warm, dappled light, setting a cozy ambiance that combats the long, dark Nordic nights.
St. Lucia's Day
On December 13th, Sweden lights up in celebration of St. Lucia's Day. This day, which marks the winter solstice, is a tribute to Saint Lucia, the bearer of light. Processions are held in schools, churches, and communities, where girls and boys don white gowns.
The lead girl, representing Lucia, wears a crown of candles on her head. They sing traditional songs and distribute gingerbread cookies and saffron buns, known as ‘lussekatter’. This celebration is a sight to behold and showcases the elegance and beauty of how Sweden celebrates Christmas.
In Sweden, Christmas Eve, or 'Julafton', is the pinnacle of Christmas celebrations. Families come together to share the joy of the season. Central to the festivities is the 'julbord', a lavish buffet that showcases the best of Swedish Christmas food. This includes the iconic Christmas ham, pickled herring, meatballs, and a variety of other dishes that tantalize the taste buds.
"God Jul" is Swedish for "Merry Christmas". During festive celebrations, Swedes toast with "skål". Another popular greeting is "God fortsättning", wishing enjoyment for the rest of the holiday festivities.
As evening approaches, a beloved tradition unfolds. Families gather around their televisions to watch 'Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas', a compilation of Disney classics that has been broadcast every Christmas Eve since 1959.
After the exuberance of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day in Sweden is a more subdued affair. It's a day of reflection, gratitude, and spending quality time with close family. Many Swedes attend church services to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
The day is also an opportunity to relax, enjoy leftovers from the julbord, and reflect on the year gone by, cherishing memories and looking forward to the future.
The Thirteen Days of Christmas
The festive spirit in Sweden doesn't end on Christmas Day. The celebrations extend for thirteen days, culminating on January 6th with the Epiphany. This period is marked by various festivities, including visiting friends and family, exchanging gifts, and enjoying seasonal treats.
The Epiphany, known as 'Trettondagen' in Swedish, commemorates the visit of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus. It's a day of rest, reflection, and, for some, the final farewell to the Christmas season until the next year.
What to Do in Sweden at Christmas
Visit a Christmas market
Sweden's Christmas markets, known as "Julmarknad", are a feast for the senses. Set against historic backdrops, these markets are adorned with twinkling lights and festive decorations. As you stroll through the wooden stalls, you'll find a range of handcrafted gifts, from traditional Swedish crafts to modern designs.
Don't forget to savor traditional treats like 'pepparkakor' (gingerbread cookies) and 'lussekatter' (saffron buns). The aroma of mulled wine, known as 'glögg', fills the air, keeping the cold at bay and warming the heart.
Go to a Christmas concert
Music is an integral part of the Swedish Christmas experience. Churches and concert halls across the country host performances where choirs sing traditional carols and hymns. The hauntingly beautiful melodies, often accompanied by candlelight, evoke a sense of nostalgia and reverence.
Whether you're a music aficionado or simply looking to soak in the festive atmosphere, attending a Christmas concert in Sweden is an experience not to be missed.
Visit the Santa Claus Village
Nestled in the heart of Lapland, the Santa Claus Village is a dream come true for children and adults alike. Here, you can meet Santa Claus in person, hand over your wish list, and even take a tour of his workshop.
The village is also home to Santa's reindeer, and if you're lucky, you might get a chance to go on a sleigh ride. The sheer joy and wonder in the children's eyes as they meet Santa is a sight that will stay with you long after the holidays are over.
Go ice skating or sledding
Sweden transforms into a winter wonderland during Christmas, offering a plethora of outdoor activities. Ice skating on frozen lakes under a starlit sky is a favorite pastime. For those seeking a bit more adrenaline, sledding down snowy hills promises a rush of excitement.
Whether you're a seasoned pro or a first-timer, the thrill of gliding on ice or zooming down a hill is bound to make your Christmas in Sweden memorable.
See the Northern Lights
While the Northern Lights, or 'Aurora Borealis', can be seen from various parts of the world, witnessing them in Sweden is truly special. The clear, dark skies of Swedish Lapland provide the perfect canvas for this natural light show. The ethereal dance of green, pink, and violet lights across the sky is a sight that leaves many spellbound.
If you're in Sweden during Christmas, venturing north to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights is an adventure you won't regret. It's the perfect way to cap off a magical Swedish Christmas.
Christmas in Sweden is more than just a holiday; it's an experience. From age-old traditions to modern celebrations, it offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of Swedish culture. So, if you're planning a festive getaway, why not consider Sweden?
And while you're at it, enhance your trip by renting a caravan from campervansweden.com. It's the perfect way to explore the snowy landscapes and partake in local festivities. Merry Christmas, or as they say in Sweden, "God Jul!"