December 2, 2015

Christmas Overview: 2015

It is that time of the year... the holiday season is upon us! In the coming weeks I will be posting articles about the Lucia festivities, restaurants/stores/museums during the holiday season, winter activities and other good-to-know information. But I thought I would start off with an overview of what to expect if you are visiting in Stockholm during this time of year. I should have posted this last week, but I just returned from a 10 day vacation in NYC. 
NK department store.
It is probably best to begin with looking at the calendar. The traditional start to the Swedish holiday season is skyltsöndag (basically "store window Sunday"). This is the Sunday where the big department stores, like NK, unveil their holiday window displays. Once upon a time, this happened on the Sunday two weeks before Christmas. But these days it has been moved up in the calendar... to the sixth Sunday before Christmas (Sweden is just like every other country in the Western world- it feels like X-mas comes earlier and earlier every year). This year it is November 15th.
Part of last year's Christmas light display...
The next date of note in the holiday calendar is Saturday, November 21st. This is the day when the official city Christmas lights are lit. Over 30 streets, squares and bridges in downtown Stockholm are lit up using hundreds of thousands of LED lights (one of the biggest lighting projects in Europe). This is also the day when the main Christmas market opens for business in Gamla Stan (old town). It is open every day until December 23rd. It was recently named as one of the top 10 markets in Europe.
Christmas market in Gamla Stan.
Next up... Sunday, November 29th. This is the first Sunday of Advent (fourth Sunday before Christmas). This marks the core, four week, traditional holiday season in Sweden. It is during this time that the majority of Christmas markets are open. For example, the Skansen Christmas market is always open on the four weekends before Christmas. It is also during this time when many restaurants in the city serve the traditional Christmas meal: julbord.
Boat cruise with traditional julbord, offered by Strömma
Another important date... December 13th. This is Lucia (or St Lucy's Day) and is one of the most Swedish of holidays. I will write more about this later, but in the meantime you can read my article from last year or just watch this video to get the gist! Not a holiday event, but if you are coming to Stockholm this week... keep in mind that December 10th is when the Nobel Prize Ceremony is held in Stockholm. While the general public really can't take part in the Nobel Awards, it is good to know that it is going on as the city will be full of invitees and traffic can be a bit chaotic in the evening.
One of the many Lucia processions in the city...
December 24th & 25th... what everything has been leading up to! Most restaurants are closed (except hotel restaurants and a select few), stores close early on the 24th and are closed on the 25th and many museums are closed. More detailed info to come later... but you can click here and here to read information from last year.
The main Christmas tree, located at Skeppsbron.
What happens after the 25th? Well, to start with... the 26th is a bank holiday (2nd Day of Christmas). But otherwise, the traditional Christmas celebrations come to a grinding halt. No Christmas markets to visit or julbord to eat. To be honest, Swedes are totally X-mased out by this point. Every year, without fail, I do get visitors asking me during this time where they can go to partake in traditional Christmas celebrations. Impossible without a time machine! What does continue are the more commercial aspects of the holiday. The lights and decorations, for example, traditionally stay up another 20 days until Tjugondag Knut. The days between Christmas and New Years are called mellandagarna ("middle days") and are, like in many other countries a huge time for the retail industry with lots of mega sales... called mellandagsrea here in Sweden.
Fingers crossed for a white Christmas this year..
This is just an overview to help you start planning your visit to Stockholm. I will be writing more detailed articles as we get closer to the holiday season. In the meantime you can read some of my posts from last (many linked above) or, if you are going to be staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for more information.

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