November 27, 2010

Swedish Holiday Traditions

If you are coming to Stockholm anytime between now and the first week or so of January, then it is good to be aware of some of the Swedish holiday tradtions especially the ones that may not be found in your own country.
  • Calendar: Besides Christmas itself, you have several other important dates. The four Sundays leading up to Christmas are the Advent Sundays. The tradition is to light a candle on the first Sunday and then an additional candle for each Sunday after that, until you have 4 candles burning on Christmas. The 13th of December is St Lucia Day, not a bank holiday, but a day with many traditions. I'll write more as the date approaches. December 26th is a bank holiday though here it is not called Boxing Day but Annandag Jul (2nd Day of Christmas). Finally there is the Epiphany, called Trettondedag Jul (13th Day of Christmas) which falls on January 6th and is also a bank holiday. It is also good to note that the main Swedish Christmas celebration is on the evening of the 24th, not the 25th, when families gather for dinner and get a visit from Father Christmas (jultomten), who actually physically visits the home with presents (usually a family member or neighbour in disguise).
  • Food & Drink: The main Swedish holiday food tradition is the Christmas smörgåsbord called julbord. This buffet resembles a regular smörgåsbord with the addition of more holiday related foods like ham and lutefisk. Many Swedish restaurants serve this all through December until Christmas. It is almost impossible to visit Sweden this time of year and avoid glögg, a Swedish mulled wine... spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. It is usually served with blanched almonds and raisins as well as gingerbread and/or saffron buns called lussebullar or lussekatter. Glögg does come in several "strengths", from non-alcoholic to regular to strong.
The Visit Sweden website does a great job of describing Swedish holiday traditions... check out what they have to say about Christmas, Lucia, holiday food & drink and how Swedes celebrate.

Pictures to follow...

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