Every year on 13 December, Scandinavians celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day. The feast once which once coincided with the shortest day of the year before calendar reforms, has since become a festival of light.
The perfect time to take our “Christmas journey though Europe” to the North, and more specifically to Sweden. But what is Christmas in Sweden really like? Here are some answers from the Embassy of Sweden.
What do Swedes expect from their Christmas?
Oh, Swedes expect a great deal. For a perfect Christmas, there should be snow on the ground but blue skies and sunshine. Everyone is in good health and in a good mood. The Smörgåsbord of classic dishes like Christmas ham, sausage, an egg and anchovy mixture called gubbröra, herrings, potatoes… is delicious and abundant. The presents are numerous under the lighted tree, and the homes are festively decorated, warm and bright. The candles and lights provide a nice contrast to the winter dark, and the red wooden cottages are at their most attractive when embedded in snow.
And how do Swedes typically celebrate Christmas?
Christmas in Sweden is a family affair. For most it is the main family event of the year and celebrated according to each family’s tradition. The food at the Christmas table may still depend on where you live or where you originally came from in the country. But for most Swedes, Christmas is about eating and resting. Many Swedes have to travel far to be reunited with their families and that is why many extend their holiday leave over Christmas and the New Year into January.
So, a Swedish Christmas is a Family Christmas. Are there unique Christmas traditions that all Swedish families observe?
A few days before Christmas Eve, Swedes venture forth to look for the perfect Christmas tree, and this is a serious matter! The tree must be densely and evenly branched, and straight. Then, at three o’clock Christmas Eve, the whole of Sweden turns on the TV to watch Disney film scenes that have been shown ever since the 1960s. After this, it is time to exchange and open gifts, even though traditional schedule softens in times of extended and new families. Unlike most other countries, Sweden celebrates Christmas mainly on the 24th, although for most 24,25 and 26 are leave days.
One last question to Madam Ambassador Johanna Brismar Skoog. What is your favourite Christmas dish?
There are so many…but I like Dopp I grytan. And julgröt. And all the herrings. And Jansson’s, of course…!
You want to try some of these delicious dishes at home? No worries. Here are the recipes:
(boiled rice pudding, also known as Santa or Christmas porridge).
Sometimes people put a peeled almond in the porridge pot, and according to old folklore the one who gets the almond will become married the following year.
A kind of stew containing potatoes, onion, anchovies and cream that is slowly cooked in the oven. A classic of the Swedish Christmas dinner table, named after a food-loving Swedish opera singer (Pelle Janzon).
The most classic of all classic Swedish festivity food. Pickled with for example mustard, onion or lingonberry. A must have on every Swedish table on Christmas, Easter or Midsummer.
“Dopp i grytan”
(Sop or “dipping in the pot”)
A piece of bread that is soaked in the salty broth of the Christmas ham. The bread should not be too fresh.
An old tradition that stems from the time when bread was stored long enough to become dry and difficult to chew.
The dopp i grytan tradition is so widespread that Christmas Eve is known as ”dopparedagen” or ”dipping day.”