Well actually with the Swedes!
I do love Christmas, it is such a fun time of year and for me it means summer, drinking Champagne (or Australian Sparkling, don’t want to upset the French) and enjoying time with friends. Yes I did say summer, air conditioner required, clothes optional, bathers a necessity!
The snowy wonderland of Christmas with Santa in his big red coat and boots is the fantasy Christmas, I never really thought it existed as a kid and always felt sorry for poor Santa in all those clothes.
But low and behold it does exist!
I found this out on my first trip to Sweden way back in 1994! It exists with a whole bunch of fabulous tradition that I have embraced whole heartedly. The only problem for me is the day after all of these marvellous festivities I am left wondering when Christmas is actually going to happen! Where is the post lunch cricket match, the sun and the flies!
The other fun twist of nature is that in that first year in Sweden as the weather began to warm, I had an overwhelming sensation that I need to buy gifts for all my nearest and dearest. Talk about a product of our environment. Summer equals gift giving for me!
Anyway back to the great traditions of the Swedish Christmas. You may be wondering why I am only writing about this now, well that’s the best part of all those traditions, they go on until mid-January. So it’s really only just finished!
While Swedes in general are not particularly renowned for their adherence to religious doctrine, it is quite fascinating that most of their Public or Bank Holidays are in fact holy days!
So Christmas starts with Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Eve. It’s the catalyst for the festivities to begin. The first Advent Candle is lit and Glögg (mulled wine) with almonds and raisins is served.
All the Christmas decorations are brought out, curtains and table clothes are changed to promote the Christmas spirit. At this point the only thing missing is the tree, we have to wait a little while for that.
Lucia, the Italian saint, bringer of light, enhances the festivities on the 13th of December. Now it’s time for Lussikatter (buns), ginger biscuits and of course we can still consume Glögg. Lucia is quite a show, a national Lucia is chosen to lead the Luciatåg (Lucia Procession) whilst singing the beautiful Lucia songs televised live across Sweden.
On the 23rd of December a freshly cut Spruce is brought in and decorated in readiness for the big day. Now Swedes are big on celebrating the Eve of a holiday and Christmas is no exception. So the 24th is The day.
We start the morning with Rice & Cinnamon Porridge for breakfast and of course the kids get to open the presents in their stockings. Well they need to, as the present opening doesn’t come until much later in the day.
Lunch is not a hearty fair as the main meal is coming at 4pm and it’s a veritable smorgasbord!!! Well pardon the pun, but this is the country from which this word originates!
Sometime in the early afternoon (depending on how ratty the kids are!) there is a visit from Tomte (Santa), who is carrying a big sack and knocks at the door asking “Are there any good children here?” to which all the kids shout emphatically “Yes!”.
They then get their presents directly from Santa, such a treat as we Aussie kids never actually get to see him!
I had the absolute honour of playing Santa this year for some friends and the kids didn’t even notice that Tomte had an Australian accent on her Swedish!!
Now before we get to the fabulous food, it is time to sit down and watch Kalle Anka or for the non-Swedes Donald Duck, it’s actually a Disney montage that starts around 3pm.
Finally it’s time for the food!
Oh the food!
We start with the Cold Fish: Pickled herring and Smoked Salmon accompanied by boiled potatoes. We then move to the Cold meats: the delectable Christmas ham with mustard glaze, brawn and liver pate.
Now for the Small Warm Bits: you can’t go past Swedish meatballs, Prinskorv (mini frankfurters) and my favourite pork spare ribs.
You may think I’m done, well no. Now you get to eat Lutefisk: that’s if you dare.
I can’t quite get past the soaking of the fish in a solution that can strip paint, then putting it in water to get rid of it, but Swedes assure me it’s a delicacy.
Of course I have tried it, but I shan’t insult them by saying that the white sauce and salt & pepper are the only things that give it flavour!!! Nope won’t say that at all!
We also have the cheese tray with an array of hard and soft breads. All I can say is God help a Swedish vegetarian, there’s not much on the table for them!
All this before we move on to desert. Now my memory of desert is not that great as I think I am usually so full that I can’t fit it in, but I’m assured it is usually made up of fruit salad and possibly Rice a la Malta a creamy rice pudding.
Then just in case you are feeling a little peckish, there are always bowls filled with lollies (candy) and nuts to keep you going. After this it’s time for the presents and a little nap in my case!
This is a bit of a lazy day. Often spend having a nice dinner with extended family. It is also an evening to go out with friends, usually those you haven’t seen for a while if you are visiting your home town.
New Year’s Eve
Of course in the middle of all this Christmas is New Year’s Eve and Swedes celebrate this pretty much like the rest of us. Good food, great friends, probably too much alcohol and fireworks to boot!
The Wise Men
We are not finished with Christmas yet, as thirteen days after the birth of Christ the Three Wise Men arrived with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh!
Well this too is a public holiday, generally celebrated by a nice diner with friends.
We are finally here, the end of Christmas at last. Twenty days after Christmas day is the day that Christmas ends. The best part of this day is throwing out the Christmas tree, it is often accompanied by a Julgransplundring party or a Christmas Tree Plundering Party.
It sounds so Viking-ish!! Yep plundering the Christmas tree.
So the decorations are put away, the tree is removed and homes are returned to their original state. Now we wait for spring!
So many traditions, so much fun. I do love the Christmas spirit of the Swedes.
I’d love to hear your favourite Christmas tradition. Drop me a line in the comments.